The Rivers State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress says it has watched with amazement what it dubbed ‘macabre dance’ of the National Judicial Council (NJC) with regard to the appointment of Justice P.N.C Agumagu as the Chief Judge of Rivers State by the State Government. “The height of this was the suspension of Justice Agumagu by the NJC barely days after he was sworn-in as Rivers’ Chief Judge. The All Progressives Congress (APC), Rivers State Chapter, is convinced that the NJC erred seriously on this issue as due process was not followed in Justice Agumagu’s suspension and we wish to request the revered NJC to reverse this decision in the interest of justice” the All Progressives Congress, APC, said in a press release signed by Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze.
According to the party, “going by the provisions of section 171 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and section 21 (d) part 1 of the third schedule of the 1999 Constitution, it is clear that the powers of the National Judicial Council (NJC) have to do only with recommending to both the President and State Governors on the appointment and disciplining of Justices and Judges. It was in line with this that the NJC recommended to President Goodluck Jonathan the suspension of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami. President Jonathan accepted the recommendation and suspended Justice Salami. After due investigation, Justice Salami was cleared of any wrongdoing. The NJC again recommended his reinstatement but President Jonathan did not accept the recommendation, hence Justice Salami was never reinstated”.
With reference to Rivers State, APC noted that “there is a judgment of a competent court headed by Honourable Justice Lambo Akanbi of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, upon which the State House of Assembly and Governor Chibuike Amaechi acted in clearing and swearing in Justice Agumagu as the Chief Judge of Rivers State. In the said judgment, NJC was a party. NJC has a right of appeal but under part 1, section 21 (d) of the third schedule of the 1999 Constitution, the NJC has no power to suspend Justice Agumagu. To make matters worse, NJC breached Agumagu’s fundamental right to fair hearing by suspending him without affording him the opportunity to be heard. The purported query should first have been given for him to defend himself before suspension if found wanting. The NJC has certainly gone beyond its powers. NJC is totally partisan in this particular issue affecting Rivers State as it has clearly demonstrated in this case”.
APC asked those that recommend what it described as ‘jungle justice’ on Justice Agumagu to reverse it as a matter of urgency to avoid ridiculing this great body that is expected to be the embodiment of disciple, justice, equity and fair play, adding that NJC should not for any reason dabble into the murky waters of politics and give leverage to those desperate to remove Gov. Amaechi from office before the end of his tenure, using every funny means no matter how strange to the laws of the land.
The party admonished the NJC and any other interested party that Justice Agumagu was duly approved by a competent court of jurisdiction and duly screened and approved by the Rivers State House of Assembly.
“Due process was clearly followed in his appointment as the Chief Judge of Rivers State and any act by anybody to malign the impeccable character and achievements of this great Jurist and any attempt to rubbish him is not welcome by us and the people of Rivers State”, the statement concluded.