Lawyers back NJC over Abia CJ removal

Justice Theresa Uzokwe

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ferdinand Orbih and a constitutional lawyer, Dame Carol Ajie have commended the National Judicial Council (NJC) for declaring the removal of the Chief Judge (CJ) of Abia State, Theresa Uzokwe, by the State House of Assembly as unconstitutional.

Pursuant to an address supported by two third majority of the House of Assembly, the state governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu had removed the embattled CJ, justifying the action with regard to the provisions of Section 292 (1) (a) (ii) of the Constitution.

Orbih said: “While it is correct to say that Section 292 (1) donate the power to remove a CJ of a state from office, it is equally correct that section cannot be read in isolation from the provisions of Sections 153 (1), 158 (1), 292 (1) as well as paragraph 21 (c) and (d) of the 3rd Schedule to the Constitution.

“A careful perusal of these other Sections will reveal that the power to discipline judges resides in the NJC. For instance, Section 158(1) of the Constitution guarantees the independence of the NJC when exercising its disciplinary powers while Paragraph 21 (c) and (d) of the 3rd Schedule to the Constitution donate the power to recommend to the removal of various categories of Judicial officers to the Governor for the purpose of removing them from office.

“A community reading of the Sections of the Constitution referred to above will reveal that only the NJC has the power to discipline judicial officers including the Chief Judge of a State.”

He argued that the principle of separation of powers is enshrined in our Constitution. “May that day not come when our judicial officers will be subjected to the whims and caprices of the Legislative and Executive branches of Government because Nigeria will be the worse for it,” he said.

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