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By Iwuala Emperor
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An Owerri High Court has given an interim order restraining Governor Rochas Okorocha and the Imo State Government from demolishing the Bar Center belonging to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Owerri Branch.

This is contained in an order issued recently by Hon. Justice T. E. Chukwuemeka-Chikeka in Suit Number HOW/724/2016.

The suit which is brought by NBA Owerri Chairman Mr. L.U.N. Nwakaeti and Secretary Mr. Ishmael Nkwocha on behalf of NBA Owerri Branch is challenging an alleged plan by Governor Okorocha’s administration to destroy the Bar Center located inside the High Court premises Orlu Road Owerri.

Other defendants in the suit are the state Attorney General, Commissioner for Works and Housing and Commissioner for Lands, Survey and Urban Planning.

From all indications, all necessary parties in the case have been served with the restraining court order.

Meanwhile, the case has been adjourned to the 19thof December, 2016 for further hearing.

However, while addressing some section of the press at the center recently, Mr Nwakaeti, said that it would be in the interest of the state government to obey the court order as anything to the contrary would be an invitation to anarchy in the state. He also used the opportunity to decry Governor Okorocha’s refusal to grant financial autonomy to the state judiciary.

‘As we are talking now, judges in Imo State have not been paid their state allowances since March 2016. Judiciary staff are being owed more than three months arrears of unpaid salaries. This is because the governor has refused to hands off money meant for the judiciary. It is illegal, constitutional and an impeachable offence. This has killed the judiciary in this state. The federal government and many states have implemented this financial judicial autonomy but Imo has blatantly refused. Right now, the workers in the state judiciary are supposed to be on strike but we are begging them because of what the masses will suffer if they go on strike….’.

On the alleged controversial forfeiture of arrears of unpaid pensions in the state, Nwakaeti said that it was unheard of that retired public servants would be held under duress to forfeit their pensions and gratuity.

‘Pension is not a gift. It is a legal entitlement which a worker contributes to while in service. Therefore, the alleged document being circulated to pensioners in Imo State to sign off and forfeit their pensions is a worthless document and no court of law will give credence or validity to it. This is madness. Pension is fixed by law and one cannot be compelled under an unconscionable contract to change the position of the law. But I feel the governor is not aware of the existence of such an evil document or exercise ...’.

Also, speaking, the legal Adviser of the branch Mazi Udegbulem while condemning Governor Okorocha’s meddling with fund meant for the state judiciary reminded the state legislature of the call by the branch last year to impeach the governor accordingly. He therefore called on the legislators to do the needful to save the state from anarchy.