By Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
Controversy now trails the selection of of Justice Simeon Chibuzor Amadi by National Judicial Council, NJC, as the next Chief Chief Judge of Rivers State.
Justice Amadi will replace Justice Adama Iyayi Lamikanra who appointed as the Chief Judge of Rivers on 15 January 2016 and will retire soon.
But Transparency and Good Governance, also known as Accountability Mandate, AM, based in Rivers state is leading agitations that Justice Amadi was not the right person to take over from Lamikanra.
In a petition to NJC, the group said the nomination of Justice Amadi as the new Chief Judge of Rivers was wrong and a violation of the norms and tradition of seniority in the judicial system.
In the petition also copied to the Judiciary Committee of National Assembly, the group alleged that the inclusion of Justice Amadi among the eight names of judicial officers suggested for appointment as the Chief Judge of Rivers State was a deliberate attempt to promote ethnic agenda.
The group, in the statement signed by its coordinator, Stan Stephen, stated that the nomination of Justice Simeon Chibuzor Amadi didn’t follow the norms and tradition of seniority in the judiciary.
The group said the nomination of Justice Amadi for appointment as the Chief Judge of Rivers State, is also a violation of section 271 subsection 4 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
This, the group said, was because Justice Amadi is number three in the hierarchy of the judicial officers in Rivers state and his nomination amounted to neglect of more capable senior officials ahead of him.
The group said this will to truncate the laid down tradition in the appointment of chief judges.
It also accused Governor Nyesom Wike of promoting the ethnic agenda by nominating his preferred candidate rather than allow seniority in the selection of becomes the next chief judge of the state.
”This nomination and appointment is 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 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 and the judiciary’s known mores. She still have 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 urged 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 this situation that leaves our women judges vulnerable to political manipulations by the Rivers government.”
Observers of politics of Rivers are warning that if the situation is not addressed, there may be a repeat of the scenario and controversies which trailed the appointment of Justice Peter Agumagu who was then the President of the Customary Court over Justice Daisy Okocha who was then the most Senior Judge in the state as Chief Judge of Rivers during the administration of former Governor Rotimi Amaechi.
This led to unprecedented crisis and closure of the courts in the state for more than a year.
The crisis was resolved immediately sworn in Justice Daisy Okocha as the Chief Judge of Rivers State immediately on his assumption of office on 29, May, 2015.