The National Judicial Council (NJC) yesterday sacked the Chief Judge of Abia State, Justice Theresa Uzokwe, and Justice Obisike Oji, also of Abia State High Court of Justice. The Council consequently recommended their compulsory retirement to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State. It issued stern warnings to Justices S. E. Aladetoyinbo and Olusola Ajibike Williams of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Lagos State High Courts.
The NJC has also set up three Investigative Committees to probe one Justice of Supreme Court and two State Chief Judges panels to investigate petitions against the Justices. In a statement issued by the NJC spokesperson, Soji Oye, the Council had, under the chairmanship of Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen, at its 85th Meeting which was held on March 14, 2018, taken the decisions. The Council noted that Justice Uzokwe was recommended for compulsory retirement following the findings of two investigative committees set up by the Council.
NJC said: “The committees investigated petitions against her by Umeh Kalu (SAN) Attorney-General/ Commissioner for Justice of Abia State, alleging illegal constitution and working with a parallel Judicial Service Commission instead of the one constituted by the state governor and confirmed by the House of Assembly. “ Justice Uzokwe was also found to have misconducted himself in Suit No. HU/131/2005, wherein he delivered judgement in the sum of N825,000 only in favour of a litigant, but subsequently signed a garnishee order of N109,612,500.” For Justice Oji, the Council noted that he was earlier queried by the Council for allowing himself to be sworn in as acting Chief Judge, and thereby colluding in, and aiding an unconstitutional process.
“His reply was unsatisfactory and the Council recommended his compulsory retirement,” Oye said. Similarly, the NJC reprimanded, seriously warned and placed on the Watch List Justice Aladetoyinbo of the FCT High Court for impropriety in a case U.L.O. Consultants Ltd v BIL Construction Nigeria Ltd, sequel to a petition by one Uche Luke Okpuno. The Council said it would have sanctioned the Judge more severely, but had to take into account the fact that aspects of the case are appealable.
The Council also seriously warned Justice Williams of the Lagos State High Court for grave errors of judgement in her level of involvement in a family business.
“Council found that the Judge, as a judicial officer, should have been more circumspect and conscious of her office. Council’s sanction was as a result of a petition by Chief Ladi Rotimi-Williams (SAN),” the NJC stated.The Council, at the meeting, considered various petitions written against 31 judicial officers. The NJC also dismissed petitions against various Justices “either for lack of merit, lack of evidence of misconduct, being subjudice or that the subject of such petitions were matters for appeal.”
The dismissed petitions were against Justices Abdu Aboki, Theresa Abadua and Ahmed Belgore all of the Court of Appeal; Hon. Mr. Justices J. T. Tsoho, Ayo Emmanuel, Sabiu Yahusa, Zainab B. Abubakar, B. O. Quadri of the Federal High Court; Hon. Mr. Justices A. N. Ubaka and B. B. Kanyip of National Industrial Court; Justices Bello Kawu, S. C. Orji, A. N. Talba of the FCT High Court; Justice K. C. Nwankpa of High Court Abia State; Justice D. A. Onyefulu of High Court Anambra State; Justice W. I. A. Effiong High Court Akwa-Ibom State; A. M. Ikpambese, High Court Benue State; Justice G. E. Gbemre, High Court Delta State; Justice A. O. Onovo, High Court Enugu State; Justice Idi Apollos, High Court Gombe State; Justice G. O. Ogunsanya, High Court Ogun State; Justice A. B. Abdulkarim, High Court Osun State; Justice K. A. Ojiako, High Court Imo State and Justices A. M. Lawal, L. A. Okunnu and L. B. Lawal Akapo, High Court Lagos State.
However, the Council advised Justice J. E. Ikede of Delta State High Court and Justice Yusuf Halilu of FCT High Court to be more careful in the course of their judicial duties. The Council referred a petition by Prince Adesina Okuneye against Justice Mwada Balami of the FCT High Court to the Police to investigate the allegation of N5 million bribe to the Judge for granting bail to an accused person. The Council also decided that the petition should be put in abeyance until the outcome of the investigation by the Police. The Council also recommended 60 judicial officers to governors of 24 states for appointment as High Court Judges, Sharia Court Kadis and Customary Court of Appeal Judges.