Okezie Ikpeazu, the Abia State governor, on Monday, February 5, 2018, swore in Justice Onuoha Arisa Kalu Ogwe as acting Chief Judge of the state days after the National Judicial Council, NJC, faulted inauguration of Justice Obisike Oji in place of a suspended Chief Judge, Justice Theresa Uzokwe.
Uzokwe was suspended following resolution of the state’s House of Assembly which recommended her sack without recourse to NJC.
But the NJC faulted the action of the state government and directed that proper procedure is followed by the swearing in the third most senior judge to the suspended Chief Judge pending conclusion of investigation surrounding her suspension. However, while performing inauguration of the acting Chief Judge at the Government House, Umuahia Ikpeazu said there was no undercurrent in the decision of the government except to stabilize the judiciary which should not be left without a head.
He said: “Last week I received a resolution of Abia State House of Assembly which led to the suspension of the former Chief Judge. Last week NJC sat and gave directive as to what they think is the proper thing, that’s why we are here today. Our aim is to stabilize the judiciary in Abia State.”
While appreciating the governor for the appointment, Justice Ogwe promised to serve to the best of his ability to ensure that the third arm of government was stable. Meanwhile, Abia state government had appealed to the NJC to temper justice with mercy in the case of Justice Obisike Oji, whose inauguration as acting Chief Judge was described by the council as unconstitutional.
According to a statement made available to journalists on the issue, Umeh Kalu, SAN, the state attorney- general and commissioner for justice, urged the council to consider the circumstances surrounding his appointment, saying he was a victim of circumstance.