Trouble In Delta As New CJ Tackles Predecessor, Sacks 40 Judiciary Workers


BEVERLY HILLS, June 16 (THEWILL) – Tension is looming in the Delta State Ministry of Justice as the new Chief Judge, Justice Marshal Umukoro, has started tackling his predecessor, Justice Abiodun Smith, with the recent sack of over 40 staff of the Delta State Multi-Door Courthouse, an independent agency in the State Judiciary, created by Justice Smith.

THEWILL learnt that the judicial workers were kicked out immediately Umukoro, who had been having a personality clash with Justice Smith, assumed office.

It was gathered that the immediate past governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, had inaugurated the agency created by Justice Smith with a female lawyer, Mrs. Julia Otulo, as its Director-General.

It was not however clear if the order to sack all those employed by the agency came from incumbent governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, who, a few weeks ago, ordered the immediate suspension of the recruitment exercise being conducted by the State Civil Service Commission.

THEWILL learnt that Justice Umukoro, who had performed the swearing in of Governor Okowa a few weeks ago has upturned many policies, employment and structures built by the retired chief judge.

A reliable source who spoke with THEWILL said; “The action of Justice Umukoro is tantamount to a betrayal. Upon resumption of office, Umukoro summoned the DG to his office and ordered her to withdraw the appointment letters of the over 40 staff of the agency. Umukoro wants to remove every staff employed by Smith and fix his own people into the system so that he can have absolute control of the Multi-Door Courthouse.

“Umukoro is not happy because of the independence status of the Delta State Multi-Door Courthouse. Umukoro wants to have the Multi-door Courthouse under his control order to have access and control of the finances of the Multi-door Courthouse. Umukoro has not been in good relationship with Justice Smith even before his swearing-in.

“This again played out shortly after his swearing in, after acknowledging everybody, Umukoro ignored his predecessor, Smith, until someone went behind him and told him to acknowledge his predecessor before he did that.

“Umukoro, is highly tribalistic, he sees his predecessor as a rival. Following Umukoro’s order to the DG, many of the staff have been caught up in tense apprehension. I commend the boldness of the DG who told the Chief Justice to his face that she cannot withdraw the letters because the appointments were made in accordance with the law establishing the courthouse.”

THEWILL learnt that the refusal of the DG to carry out the orders to withdrew all the employment letters, infuriated Umukoro, who went out of his way to personally terminate the appointments of the over 40 staff of the agency.

Our correspondent was told by one of the affected staff that since the termination of their job, it has not been easy for them.

“Since over two weeks now that we were sacked, it has been lamentation and wailing. Worse of all is that the CJ later discreetly, re-engaged a few of the staff who are his kinsmen and some others who have connections and were able to reach out to him. I am so devastated by the CJ’s decision to sack us unjustly, after we were employed last April.

“We even underwent two weeks intensive training before resumption of work. Umukoro is power-drunk. He is bent on super-imposing his authority on every organ of the state judiciary. He is fighting Smith, his predecessor, by making sure everything that is of Smith is totally wiped away to enable him run the system as he desires.” the affected staff stated.

THEWILL learnt that following the development which did not go down well with Smith, the former chief judge , a few days ago, stormed Asaba and visited the Courthouse to sympathise with the staff.

“Smith recently visited us here unceremoniously not too long ago, where he met with the DG and had a chat with some of the affected staff. But he even shunned the CJ’s office, and left for Warri immediately. When Umukoro heard about Smith’s visit, he was infuriated.” a staff told our reporter.

Sources however said that the affected staff have resolved to stage a peaceful protest to draw the attention of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to their helpless plight as Umukoro’s action is being described as the height of injustice borne out of jealousy and tribalism.

When our correspondent visited the premises of the Courthouse, some of the affected staff were seen milling around the building, which is located beside the State High Court premises, along Okpanam road, Asaba.

Efforts to reach Justice Smith and Umukoro on the issue were unsuccessful. Umukoro was said to be unavailable when our reporter visited his office but a dependable source in his office confirmed the development.