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Rivers State Without A Chief Judge, One Year After

By Anderson Hart
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It has become common knowledge that the Rivers State Judiciary has been innocently quarantined like an Ebola patient for 365 days now by the political elites in charge of the governance of the state. We feel deeply saddened and disappointed that since the retirement of Hon. Justice Iche Ndu as Chief Judge in Rivers state on 19th August, 2013, in the face of a subsisting recommendation of the National Judicial Council (N.J.C) which recommendation the Executive Governor on oath, initially pledged to follow giving the Legislative functions that was taken over then by the National Assembly which was then on recess, while he on 20th August 2013, illegally swore in Hon. Justice P.N.C Agumagu, a Judge of the Customary Court of Appeal as acting C.J. and subsequently purported to have made him substantive, the Governor and his Executives have not only perjured and impunated, but have deliberately disregarded the constitutionally recommended candidate, Hon. Justice Daisy Okocha who was duly and constitutionally recommended by the N.J.C whose statutory duty it is to do so without any form of undue interference.

The implication of this entire arrangement is a revelation that the current type of Rivers State Government is a government of INJUSTICE WITHOUT ANY RESPECT FOR THE COMMON MAN AND THE DOWNTRODDEN. Certainly, any government that rejoices like the Rivers State government for destroying justice system can never be reckoned with. Today, the Rivers State Government feels highly fulfilled and satisfied as it has killed the judiciary along with the Legislative arm which now seats sectionally in the ambiance of the Government House with the Executive been the only functional arms. This is most regrettable and unfortunate.

We are worried today that the Rivers State Government has succeeded in using the Judiciary workers Union JUSSON as tools to do their bidding through the endless indefinite strike action just to further justify their destruction of the only hope of the common man ostensibly on our behalf. It is more ironical that the union workers continue to enjoy their jumbo salaries every month as against the no-work-no-pay style which the same government has used to impoverish and "harzadize" the ASUU of Rivers State University of Science and Technology.

It has become clear to all of us that the demise of the administration of justice in Rivers State has opened the window for reckless and fiscal irresponsibility among Officials, Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Rivers State government among whom are the Commissioner of Agriculture, Emma Chinda who may have embezzled One Hundred Million Naira Counterpart Fund which he requested as contained in a memo he sent to the governor requesting same dated 18th July 2013 and same amount disbursed to his Ministry for onward remittance to FADAMA and International Fund for Agricultural Project IFAD in a written instruction to Zenith Bank by the Accountant General of Rivers State date 31st March, 2014 which money he may have diverted and refused to pay as we suspect he is using to develop his various private properties worth several billions of Naira.

This is one among others like the Fraud in the Board of Internal Revenue which alarm was raised by the House Leader Chidi Lloyd which he called monumental fraud. We also remember the Official Corruption cum embezzlement in the Bureau for Public Procurement in the purchase of the so-called Road Analyzer Van with over 500 Million Naira, such questionable purchase which raised eyebrows in the state particularly by procurement experts.

Also, the mischievous amendment of Rivers State High Court Law which asserted the Chief Registrar to do the job of a Chief Judge, such Law made to address a temporary political appetite for the government in power. None of these burning public interest matters can be litigated; kudos to the Rivers State Government which chose to close down our courts in defiance to clear constitutional obligations which our Rule-of-Law product Governor has vowed to frustrate. What a rule against the Law? Suffice it to say that every argument put up by the state government are misleading and baseless and all to please a master without due consideration.

Our final worry is: HOW COME THE SUSPENDED JUSTICE P.N.C AGUMAGU IS STILL RUNNING THE RIVERS STATE JUDICIARY ACCOUNT ALONG WITH HIS CO-PLAYER, THE CHIEF REGISTRAR? THIS IS A MATTER OF THE HIGHEST IMPORTANCE. FROM ALL INDICATIONS, THE SUSPENDED JUDGE HAS REMAINED UNPERTURBED AS HE CONTINUES TO ENRICH HIMSELF FROM THE LARGESSE OF THE RIVERS STATE JUDICIARY ACCOUNT.

THIS DEVELOPMENT MAY COME AS A SURPRISE TO MANY AS IT IS INDEED THE FACT WHICH WE CHALLENGE THE CHIEF REGISTRAR TO COME OUT PUBLICLY WITH THE ACCOUNT OFFICERS TO EXPLAIN THE JUDICIARY FINANCIAL STATEMENTS AND DOCUMENTS UNDER THE SUPERVISION OF STAKEHOLDERS AND FORENSIC ACCOUNTANTS AND AUDITORS. WE HEREBY CALL ON THE ANTI-GRAFT AGENCIES TO QUICKLY SWING INTO ACTION AND INVESTIGATE SAME.

One year after, Justice will never be caged forever. Hence, we call on the handlers of the Rivers State Government to put their private interest aside and quickly respect and employ the provisions of the constitution as complied with by the National Judicial Council which has recommended a substantive Chief Judge, which recommendation should be implemented without any further equivocation or political interpretations TO SAVE THE ONLY HOPE OF THE COMMON MAN!

Livingstone Wechie
Executive Director, Society For The Promotion of Better Nigeria