Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
A group in Rivers has petitioned the National Judicial Council over the nomination of Justice Simeon Chibuzor Amadi, instead of Joy Akpughunum as chief judge.
Amadi will succeed Justice Adama Iyayi Lamikanra, who was appointed on 15 January 2016 and who will retire soon.
Transparency and Good Governance group, also known as Accountability Mandate, which wrote the petition said Amadi’s nomination was wrongful.
It said the nomination violated the norms and tradition of seniority in the judicial system.
The group said Justice Joy N. Akpughunum, should be the rightful successor, as she is the next in service ranking to Lamikanra.
Chibuzor, number three in seniority ranking, is said to be Governor Wike’s preferred judge to head the state judiciary.
But members of Accountability Mandate, claim that Chibuzor’s nomination and approval was a deliberate attempt to promote ethnic agenda.
Eight names were sent by Governor Wike to the NJC, the group said.
Accountability Mandate in the statement signed by its Coordinator, Stan Stephen, said Chibuzor Amadi’s nomination did follow the norms and tradition of seniority in the judicial system.
“We write to bring to your notice of a violation in the process of how the appointment of Justice Amadi Simeon Chibuzor as the Chief Judge of Rivers State, which is a violation of section 271 subsection 4 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)”, the group said.
The group argued that nomination of Justice Amadi Simeon Chibuzor who is No.3 in the hierarchy of the judicial officers in Rivers state, neglecting more capable senior officials who are ahead of him, is to truncate the laid down tradition in the appointment of chief judges.”’
The group also accused the State Governor Nyesom Wike of promoting the Ethnic agenda by nominating his preferred candidate rather than allow seniority in the selection of who becomes the next chief judge of the state.
”This nomination and an appointment are based on ethnic consideration by Governor Nyesom Wike because he hails from Ikwerre stock of Rivers state, a stance that could amount to a grave danger in and cause disaffection among the officials at the temple of justice.”’
“The second in seniority is Justice Joy N. Akpughunum after incumbent Justice Adama Iyayi Lamikanra. She is supposed to mount the rostrum of the Chief Judge based on the tradition of seniority in the judiciary’s known mores.
She also still has two years to spend in the civil service before her retirement.
“We frown at this development because it is unconstitutional and also an attempt to impose a burden of credibility on the NJC as we totally reject the imposition of a wrong candidate in Rivers state judiciary.
“We urge that justice Joy shouldn’t be made to suffer this injustice because of her gender or ethnic background to be denied a life-long aspiration to rise to such a noble height in her career.”
“We believe that the honourable House Committee Chairman on Judiciary will act on a situation to this infraction that leaves our women judges vulnerable to political manipulations by the Rivers government”.
Observers of Rivers politics, sensed a deja va in Chibuzor’s preference over Akpughunum.
Under former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, the head of the Customary court was made the chief judge, over Justice Daisy Okocha.
The judiciary vehemently protested. Court were shut for almost a year.
But the matter was resolved when Wike came to power in 2015.
It was Okocha, who swore him in and later became the chief judge.