*Says Challenge of the Judiciary Is Independence
*Backs JUSUN on their Struggle For Independence of the Judiciary
Prof. Peter Nnanna Chukwudi Umeadi is a former Chief Judge of Anambra State. A former President of the world Association of Judges under the auspices of the World Jurists Association (WJA). He is currently a visiting Prof. of Law at the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus.
Prof. Umeadi recently declared his intention to contest election in 2023 on the platform of the All Progessives Grand Alliance (APGA).
LAW PERSONALITY INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Congratulations for having a meritorious service at the High Court of Anambra State Judiciary from which you retired recently as a Chief Judge. You had what could be described as a successful law practice in Lagos as a lawyer. Why did you choose to leave the Bar for the Bench? There is an allure which the Bar has that make it difficult to be abandoned. Perhaps that explains that persons who have retired in their chosen career go back to studying law and be called to the Bar. I graduated LL. B (Hons) from the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus in 1979. I attended the Nigeria Law School in Lagos and was called to the Bar in 1980. I served in the NYSC from 1980 to 1981 in Lagos State. It was time to delve into the practice of the law itself. I chose to remain in Lagos after my NYSC. My classmate in the University and Law School and my friend Chukwudum Ikeazor Esq, thought of something which could be helpful. His father Chief Chimezie Ikeazor SAN of blessed memory had a law office at No.14/16 Abibu Oki Street on Lagos Island. Chukwudum took me there on the 3rd floor and put me into that law office. He had interests other that litigation which he left to pursue. Eventually he joined the British Police Force like his grandfather who was a Commissioner of Police in the colonial era in Eastern Region of Nigeria. He is author of books. I found myself ensconced in the heart of Lagos in an opportune office space to practice my law. It was too good to be true. Yet I started immediately, printing my visiting card with the existing telephone in the office. My business of law practice had started. I knew my days were numbered. It lasted for some months before the bubble burst. The landlords of the premises would come to repossess their space when the term expired since late Chief Chimezie Ikeazor SAN had since stopped using the office. I left the office. Later I was told of a senior lawyer who needed a junior lawyer to work with on anassociate basis. That suited me and I applied. Behold, in a twist of fate the senior lawyer Late Chief B.I.D Ezeogu of blessed memory of B.I.D Ezeogu and Associates, Legal Practitioners, had taken up the same office space at 14/16 Abibu Oki Street Lagos. I was to work with him from October 1981 until December 1981. He was genial and accommodating and I sat back to learn the ropes. However my past stay in the same office would come up to bring me unmerited troubles. My principal was using the same phone number which late Chief Chimezie Ikeazor SAN used, which my friend Chukwudum Ikeazor Esq transferred to me, which I printed on my call cards. Quite often my erstwhile clients would call and when my principal picked the phone which was on his table they would ask of my humble self as the owner of the number. My principal considered it impudent of me to give out his phone number as mine and bring him disturbance. I was in a dilemma, I had distributed many of my cards and no way I could stop the calls. In chastising me he had told me how much he paid for the office. He had been very nice to me. He had taken me to the Ritz Hotel across Broad Street, for lunch in the best traditions of the Bar, on occasions when I had impressed him with how I handled what he assigned to me to do. I decided not to complicate things by telling him I was in the office before he took it up and set my mind to leave his law office in December 1981. He was such a nice man as he tried to make me not leave early before Christmas, when I informed him, as according to him, that is when juniors should stay and get whatever briefs could come their way. Well, before Christmas 1981 I left Lagos and returned to my dear mother of blessed memory at Aba. In February 1982 I was well rested and I set to return once more to Lagos to engage my fortunes and see what is in store for me. My family already made arrangement where I would stay from where I would hit the streets again to search for work. On the day of my departure through Port Harcourt airport. I met Jude Idigbe Esq. my classmate from C.K.C Onitsha and my senior at the Bar by one year. I had not seen him since we left the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus. We embraced and in our talk I learnt he was in Port Harcourt to do a court matter. I told him how I made a retreat from Lagos to gather myself. How having rested I was returning to Lagos to see what nature had in store for me. He told me he was working in the Chambers of Chief Rotimi Williams SAN, the doyen of the Nigerian Bar. He further told me that the chambers had vacancies and that if I was interested he could get me to come for the interview sometime in March 1982. I signified interest immediately and he promised to do as we talked and we dispersed. I was taken to work as a junior counsel in the Chambers of Chief Rotimi Williams SAN. There I remained from March 1982 to December 1983. That would earn me the membership of the prestigious BLACK TABLE. With all modesty I would describe that opportunity as being at the tower of legal practice in Nigeria. Chief Rotimi Williams SAN was a humane person, passionate with his vocation as a lawyer, and a man full of charity and compassion. Nature also had endowed him with wisdom, discernment, family both nuclear and extended surrounding him and allowed him a happy long life to which was added opulence. When I left the Chambers of Chief Rotimi Williams SAN, I returned to Onitsha where I set up my law firm of Peter Umeadi and Co, Legal Practitioners at 22 Oguta Road Onitsha. There I was in the same premises with late Humphrey Egwuatu Esq, late Ndidi Chinwuba Esq, Chief Clement C. Mbadinuju (Odera) who later became the Governor of Anambra State and Jide Okorji Esq. P.A. Afuba Esq. who later became Attorney General of Anambra State on two different occasions and also Commissioner for Lands was there and Hon. Linda Ikpeazu, Member House of Representative in National Assembly later had her constituency office in the same building. I was the first lawyer to set up office in that building. I would return to Lagos again in March 1992. I set up office first at 22 Wilmer Street Ilupeju courtesy of my good friend late Fide Onyekwelu Esq. and later moved to 94 Obafemi Awolowo Road Ikeja. In 1997 by the intervention of my uncle and mentor Chief Philip Ezebilo Umeadi SAN of blessed memory, I was sworn in as a Judge of the High Court of Anambra State on 14/1/1997. I started with the Bar and ended up on the Bench. The Bench is the pinnacle of the career in the legal profession. I enjoyed work at the Bar of which I had the privilege to be exposed to different facets of endeavor. When I had the opportunity to move up to the Bench I took it gladly. It represents the completion of the cycle of my career as a legal practitioner for which achievement I count as providential grace.
Looking back to your career at the Bench would you say that you had a fulfilled professional experience? How and why.
Yes, I had a fulfilled career at the Bench. I was told by a former Chief Registrar in the old Anambra State who later became a Judge of High Court of Anambra State that I was the youngest person to be made a Judge in the Eastern Region at the time. It became evident, as soon after my appointment the scramble for the younger lawyers to get on the Bench started. With all modesty my litigation and solicitors works at the Bar prepared me for my work on the Bench. It did not however save me from the baptism of fire which I went through on my first day of sitting on the Bench at High Court Nnewi. One had to transform to the new mind set about work on the Bench which ought to center on dispensing justice to all manner of men without fear or favour ill will or affection. It was the duty of the Judge to listen to the argument on the matter before him from all the facts and hopefully come to a reasonable decision based on the law. There is a penchant in our Nigerian psyche where everyone expects to win and are hard put to accept defeat. However, the truism is that from the onset some facts have more weight than others and if things were properly considered some matters ought not progress to litigation at all, those matters should have been resolved through the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism where available. The sad fact sometimes is that notwithstanding the weak facts of a case parties prefer to proceed on to protracted litigation. When they lose they blame everyone else except themselves. The Emeritus Chief Judge of Anambra State, Justice Obiora Nwazota of blessed memory would always remind us Judges that the Bench is not a place where you come to be popular. It is all about doing the right thing at all times. I would say with modesty that I held to those tenets in all my time on the Bench
What was your greatest challenge at the Bench as a Chief Judge, how did you overcome that?
As a Chief Judge my greatest challenge was how to maintain the independence of the Judiciary. The concept of separation of powers is irritating to the political class, which is accentuated from our years of military rule. In America, the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary are referred to as co-equal arms of government. In Nigeria it is anathema to suggest such. I have said it publicly and may repeat here without fear of contradiction, that at no time under the tenure of the (2) two Governors when I served as Chief Judge did I receive any interference with regard to the decision of cases before the Courts. Anambra State Judiciary may not have been the best looked after but we had a reasonable life line to operate as an arm of government. However, there were very many State Judiciaries who were much below the water mark. It is said that injustice for one translate to injustice to all. It was difficult to erase the feeling of those in the Executive arm of government that the Judiciary is not an appendage of the Ministry of Justice. Any attempt to correct this was likened to trying to create an empire from the state bloc and was met with umbrage and blackmail. In the end the dislike against the Judiciary and her staff was pervasive in the public service and gave rise to constant denials. There is the story from a biography where a Chief Judge met with a Military Administrator of a State in the western part of Nigeria to discuss the list of names penciled to be made Judges. The Military Administrator was quiet as the Chief Judge described a candidate as a good lawyer, dedicated, honest and humble. The last word rocked the boat! The Military Administrator thundered, “that is how they all are until you make them a Judge and they turn into a tin god” The public servant who fashion government policies and even legal practitioners find it difficult to come to terms with the metamorphosis of a person who has been made a Judge. The judicial responsibility of a Judge is not to be shared with any. Moreover, the administrative needs of a judge is peculiar. A judge would require at the minimum, two clerks of court, one Secretary typist, one messenger, one Police orderly, and a driver. If you add those who should assist at his residence the list grows. The career civil servants who advise the government find it difficult to accommodate these basic needs of the Judiciary. It would be different if we understand and embrace separation of powers. I do not know whether I met the challenge of asserting the independence of the Judiciary while in office but I gave it my best shot. It is challenge we have to confront collectively for the smooth running of that critical arm of government
Recently you congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari for signing Order No.10 of 2020 into law why?
You also requested him to extend the Order to include obedience to orders of courts of competent jurisdiction, why.Yes, on 22/5/2020 on my twitter handle @me_llord, with humility, I congratulated Mr. President on “the bold, irreversible step in entrenching the rule of law”. By irreversible, I meant that the genie has left the bottle! On the same tweet I said “the offshoot should be obedience to decision of court of competent jurisdiction, whether favourable or not and seek appropriate redress according to law.” I should think that is self explanatory. In all situation change is hard to accept such that the issuance of Executive Order no 10 of 2020 broke the glass ceiling. The independence of the Judiciary rests on the constitutional concept of separation of powers which drive the rule of law. All these would be a mirage without financial autonomy for the Judiciary. In my speech of the legal year ceremonies of 2014/2015 on 22/9/2014 I said inter alia, “it is fitting that I would start with praising the effort of JUSUN in ushering in the much needed financial autonomy to the Judiciary in Nigeria. I have been constant and continue in the expression of my faith and appreciation to the contribution of the Judiciary staff. At no time more than now should I ask of all Judiciary staff in Anambra State in particular and the Nigeria Judiciary in general to stand up and take a bow…… These men and women who guard sometimes with their lives, the files, documents, exhibits and other court property without which the courts cannot function. They turn up to their duty posts daily under rain and sunshine sometimes with their meagre salaries to produce vital documents that are of grave importance to the life and death struggles that represent many a legal battle. Maybe since these facts happens daily we tend to take them for granted. But I consider them heroic deeds…. The best moment of the Judiciary staff seems to have arrived. They filed a suit for financial autonomy for the State Judiciaries pursuant to Section 121(3) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999. Judgement was given in their favour. When the various States Governments delayed in obeying the judgement of the court they embarked on a nationwide strike which was only called off to allow those states still sitting on the fence to obey …. I congratulate JUSUN for this historic feat” The way the legal profession is fashioned the Bar is the bulwark of Bench. Ideally the Bar should be in the forefront of the struggle in Nigeria for financial autonomy for the Judiciary. I doubt if that is the case. Rather the JUSUN with their meagre salaries are the ones who went to court and won financial autonomy for the courts which the Governors neither implemented nor appealed against. The senior lawyers who earn fees from court appearances were nowhere to be found. I speak here with all sense of responsibility that the leading lights of the Bar were harassing and intimidating the JUSUN to stop their fight. There may be few senior lawyers who have sympathy for the cause of the independence of Judiciary and did something about it but we would not fail to chronicle that Dr. Olisa Agbakoba SAN on his own went to court to enforce the financial autonomy of the Judiciary. Like JUSUN he got a court judgement which the Governors neither implemented nor appealed against. The mainstream media should also review its role because in the final analysis everyone runs to the court for protection. The full import of independence of the Judiciary mean that even Judges also would face the wrath of the law if they transgress in their official duties. They would be tried according to law and if found guilty would suffer the penalty for their offence. The same would apply to all and sundry. Nobody is above the law. It is with this mindset that we need to support financial autonomy on the basis of separation of powers, to strengthen the rule of law as a corner stone for the development of our country Nigeria. On this subject the JUSUN are the undisputed heroes
Independence for the judiciary have failed and how do you think we can get it right this time around?
I do not agree that the independence of the Judiciary failed. No, not at any time. Permit me to bring up excerpts from The 8th Dignity of Man Lecture which I was privileged to delivered during the 56th Founders Day Celebrations of University of Nigeria Nisukka on Friday October 7th 2016 at the famous Princess Alexandria Auditorium UNN. The title is Rule of Law as Foundation of any Nation. “Our Judiciary have exhibited patriotism, erudition, lucidity, candour and courage in their work. Our Judiciary have kept in full view the expectations of prosperity, safety, wellbeing, the respectability and dignity of our citizens. The work of our Judiciary are embedded in the respect and observance of the immutable, inevitable, inscrutable adherence and acquiescence and upholding of the rule of law. Suit No. SC/58/69 (1) E.O. Lakanmi (2) Kikelomo Ola (by her guardian and next friend E.O. Lakanmi) versus (1) The Attorney General (west) (2) The Secretary to the Tribunal (3) The counsel to the Tribunal came up to the Supreme Court in 1969. I think this one monumental work, relevant to the topic of today stands in good credit to the Nigerian Judiciary………… In unraveling the matrix of the facts, the Supreme Court of Nigeria, exhibited uncommon commitment to work and dexterity when it elected, on its own, to delve into issues which arose but which the court below did not deal with. Listen again to portion of the Judgement of the Supreme Court in Lakanmi’s case (supra) inter alia “we are in no doubt that the object of the Federal Military Government when it engaged in this exercise is to clean up a section of the society which had engaged itself in corrupt practices – those vampires in the society whose occupation was to enrich themselves at the expense of the country. But if, in this pursuit the Government however well-meaning, fell into the error of passing legislation which specifically in effect, passed judgement and inflicted punishment or in other words eroded the jurisdiction of the courts, in a manner that the dignity and freedom of the individual, once assured, are taken away, the courts must intervene. (the underlining is mine) Every case we reiterate, must be considered on its own facts and the materials placed before us in this matter lead to no other conclusion than that the provision of the Decree No. 45 of 1968 are such as are not reasonably necessary to achieve the purpose which the Federal Military Government set out to fulfill. This appeal will therefore be allowed and both Edict No. 5 of 1967 and Decree No. 45 of 1968 are declared ultra vires; they are null and void”…. Let us bring to mind the situation in Nigeria in 1969 when this matter came up to the Supreme Court up till 1970 when the judgement was delivered! Far from losing her independence the Judiciary in Nigeria is populated with jurists of caliber, pedigree, honesty forthrightness courage and many sterling qualities. The Election Tribunal of which I was a member heard the Petition No. EDGV/EPT/1/07 Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomole & Anor v INEC & 21 Ors. On Thursday 20/3/2008, I had the singular privilege, while delivering the unanimous judgement, to refer to the Judiciary in Nigeria as follows “On our part, we with humility shall repeat the words of Sir Isaac Newton and say that we are standing on the shoulders of giants, giants of the Nigerian Judiciary which have afforded us all the judicial precedents we have used” What failed is the lack of political will, the collective stand of the Bar for which the Judiciary is their place of work, the voice of the public and mainstream media to insist that proper, adequate and unfettered funding be made available to the Judiciary necessary to maintain her independence. Late President Musa Yar’ Adua on an event to open the biannual Judges Conference promised to make the Governors to comply with the Constitution of Nigeria and fund the State Judiciaries as required. He kept his word soon after at the National Council of State Meeting which followed where he told the Governors in clear language to go home and implement S 121 (3) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999. Soon after he fell ill and did not recover. The Judiciary lost a great ally in the struggle. It was said that he as Governor of Kastina State implemented financial autonomy with all the arms government in the State. It is a happy coincidence that another President from Kastina signed the Executive Order No. 10 of 2020 into law.
What is your view on Governors resistance to the autonomy and financial independence for the judiciary and States legislature?
I see that the Governors are playing a game of convenience. Only a few States are able to sustain themselves. Many states are owing back log of salaries. I copied the quote below from a platform I belong to “Government can’t be about paying salaries or pension. If the population is approximately 5 million: Civil Servants census 45,000; pensioners 205,000 (plus dead and ghost pensioners). So if government cater for 250,000 staff and ex staff what happens to the remaining 4.750 million?” The author should know as he was Secretary to State Government at one point. The Governors hold on to State finances meant for the other arms of government for survival. The Governors also hold the funds of the Local Government Councils. All they do is pay salaries to staff and spend the rest without recourse to the Councils. They also collect and hold and spend monies from entities under the constitutional control of the Local Government Councils, contrary decision of courts of competent jurisdiction. See (a) Suit No. 0/265/2004 Chief (Prof.) A.N.A. Modebe & 10 Ors v Igwe Okonkwo of Amansi: Ex parte (1) Lazarus Uba (2) Innocent Iwuagwu delivered on 23/72004 by Umeadi J (as he then was) unreported: pp 19-32 The Day the Eagle Emerged; The legal works of Hon. Justice Peter N.C. Umeadi. Selected Ruling Judgements and Reviews (b) Knight Frank & Rutely Nig. v Attorney General Kano State (1998) 7NLR P.19 . I venture to say that the day authentic full financial autonomy for the arms of government is realized, many wrong things would normalize. Every arm of government would cut their coats according to their size. The restructuring everyone is clamoring for would be waiting for us at dawn.
You were President of the World Association of Judges for two consecutive terms, when did your tenure end. How do you think that membership of such international professional associations will impact positively on the efficiency of Nigerian judges?
Yes, I joined the Governing Board of the World Jurist Association (WJA)after the election at the 25th Biennial World Law Congress on November 2nd 2017 at the Caribbean Island of Aruba. I was elected President of the World Association of Judges (WAJ) under the auspices of the WJA. On my return to Nigeria I was admitted to see My Lord the Chief Justice of Nigeria (as he then was) Justice W.S.N. Onnoghen, GCON where I formally notified him of my election and he gladly received the news of my appointment, congratulated me and wished me well. The next day I met with Administrator of The National Judicial institute (NJI) Justice R.P.I Bozomo OFR. His Excellency Chief Willie Obiano the Governor of Anambra State called in from USA to congratulate my humble self. I was further received by Abubakar Malami SAN, Hon. Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in his office in Abuja. In that position I stepped into the big shoes of Prince Bola Ajibola, of blessed memory, former Judge of the World Court at Hague and the immediate past President of the World Association of Judges. The World Jurist Association came about in July 1957 when a gala was organized in honour of the American Bar Association in London. There Charles Ryhne the President of the American Bar Association, Justice Earl Waren the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court and Sir Winston Churchill agreed to promote Peace through Law which later changed to World Jurist Association “world ruled by law not force.” In 1963 Charles Ryhne and Justice Earl Waren convened in Greece, the first World Conference on Law. The President of America John F. Kennedy in a message to the conference termed it “The First World Conference on World Peace through Rule of Law” bringing to fore “the rule of law, separation of powers, to ensure freedom and justice” In 1965 President Lydon B Johnson inaugurated the 2nd World Law Congress in Washington DC which was chaired by Truman and Eisenhower both past Presidents of the United States of America. Nigeria has a rich history of participation in WJA. Justice M.L Uwais GCON, former Chief Justice of Nigeria is an Honorary President of WJA Worldwide; Justice M.B Belgore GCON former Chief Justice of Nigeria was onetime President of the Nigerian Chapter of WJA. and thereby member of the Advisory Council. Justice Umaru Abdullahi, CON former President of the Court of Appeal an ardent participant of WJA. The World Law Congress of WJA has been hosted in Nigeria. While I was the President of the World Association of Judges I secured the privilege to register the World Association of Judges under the auspices of the World Jurist Association in Nigeria. I am therefore a Trustee of the World Association of the Judges registered as a corporate body on 23/4/2019 with no. CAC/IT/NO128023. The center for Continuing Education for Judges in Nigeria is the National Judicial institute (NJI). The NJI has a close relationship with the WJA, which have yielded beneficial and rewarding results. In the last World Law Congress which took place in Madrid Spain from 19th – 20th February 2019 Justice W.S.N. Onnoghen CJN (as he then was) was billed to be one of the speakers. The NJI allowed a whopping 64 (sixty four) Judges to attend. At the World Law Congress in Madrid in 2019 I was reelected as the President of the World Association of Judges and retained my seat on the Global Board of WJA. I was President for WJA Africa; President for WJA Nigeria and Representative of WJA to the United Nations in Geneva. Soon after the Madrid Congress trouble erupted on the Board. The new worldwide President got the upper hand in the Board room skirmishes and sometime in January 2020 all the Board Members including my humble self were removed. In April 2020 I was surprised to receive a letter from the Executive Director of World Jurist Association and World Law Foundation informing me that a letter from the Worldwide President had been enclosed for me. She mentioned that after all matters had been settled she hoped I can join the Congress and keep on working for the promotion of the Rule of Law. I opened the enclosure and found the brochure for the World Law Congress for 2021 slated for Bogota Colombia and a two page letter signed by the Worldwide President of WJA saying he would be delighted if I could actively participate in the Congress and ended the letter with “I would love you to join the project”. On my twitter handle @me_llord I tweeted as follows “Javier Cremades Gracia, Worldwide President World Jurist Association and World Law Foundation, graciously invited me to participate at the XXVIII Biennial Congress of the World Jurist Association to be held in Bogota from 8th – 10th February 2021. I delightfully accepted”. The magic of the moment was that Javier Cremades retweeted my tweet which now went viral. I was the only member of the removed Board who was invited back. I am happily back to promoting the Rule of law. I am a Member of the Organizing Committee of the World Law Congress 2021 now shifted to November 2021 in Bogota Colombia. As a run up to Bogota, Opening Sessions via webinar on Zoom have been planned. It started in Barcelona and gone to Chile. I held a meeting via Zoom with the Executive Director and the CEO of the Congress where I was mandated to coordinate the Opening Session in Nigeria for April 2021 which is tagged the African Round Table including eminent jurists across the continent of Africa. For now, all my titles on WJA did not survive our removal from the Board. I should be content with Trustee of World Association of Judges and Member Organizing Committee of the World Law Congress 2021.
You had brushes with the Bar Association as a Chief Judge. from the benefit of hindsight, what is your view on Bar-Bench relationship and how best will differences between them be resolved in the best interest of the society?
In suit No. A/53/2013 Chief S.U.S Mbanaso v Incorporated Trustees of the Nigerian Bar Association NBA & 8 Ors, I made an order of interim injunction against the 9 defendants on 19/3/2013. The copious pleadings in the matter show that the plaintiff was the Chairman of the NBA Awka Branch (AwkaBar). In the preceding National NBA election he backed a candidate who lost. The majority of the members of Awka Bar who backed the candidate who won vowed to unseat him supported by the powers that be. In order to save his position the plaintiff filed several suits in the High Court of Anambra State. I spread the suits to different Judges within the Judicial Division and some remained in my court. Each time the matter came up in my court I persuaded the legal practitioners for both sides to find a meeting point and settle their differences for the sake of the Bar. I counselled that the Bar ought to remain united and strong and at the same time should be vigilant for the protection of the Judiciary. I was surprised at the utterances and behavior I saw from Bar members in court who had been mandated to disrobe the sitting Chairman at all cost, and they said not even the cases in court could change that. The fears came to the fore when in one of the cases in Suit No. A/Misc. 109/2012, Chief (Bar) S.U.S. Mbanaso v J.C Anekwe Esq. and 6 Ors. The High Court per Hon. Justice J.C Iguh, of blessed memory, the Administrative Judge of Awka Judicial Division, made an order of interim injunction maintaining the status quo pending the determination of the motion on notice. The order was made on 3/9/2012. The motion on notice was fixed for 10/9/2012. The members of the Awka Bar refused to obey the court order and continued with the harassment of the plaintiff. It was in the wake of all these that Suit No. A/53/2013. was filed. The Awka Bar Executives were chasing plaintiff around the town and his residence to divest him of the property of the Awka Bar Branch including the official bus in the style of NURTW. After I reviewed the affidavits and annexures I made an order of interim injunction against the 1st to 9th defendants. Trouble broke loose. The leadership of the National NBA sent word out that I had committed sacrilege by ordering an interim injunction against the NBA. Many lawyers did not agree with them and both sides now engaged themselves on the social media. The date for 2nd Chief Judge’s Dinner was fixed for 21/3/2013. The National NBA issued orders to lawyers to boycott all activities of the Chief Judge based on the interim order of 19/3/2013. The Judiciary had expended huge resources to invite Judges from Ghana and Nairobi to build the capacity of the Bar and Bench in Anambra State on matters of Mediation and Case Flow Management. If I was not a Bar man, why should I spend scarce Judiciary resources to beef up capacity of the Bar in Anambra State only to have the National NBA sabotage same with connivance from members in Anambra. The National NBA pursued me and still the President of NBA wrote a petition against the Chief Judge of Anambra State to the National Judicial Council, (NJC), which petition was referred to me to answer. Amidst many complaints they raised the decision of the Supreme Court in Mohammed v Olawunmi (1993) 4 NWLR pt 287 p. 254. On my defense I countered with the case of Comex Ltd v Nigeria Arab Bank Ltd (1997) 3 NWLR pt 499 at p.643 where Mohammed v Olawunmi and Ors was raised, and it did not stop the Supreme Court, Coram Wali, Kutigi, Ogundare, Mohammed and Onu JJSC to hear the appeal on the merits. By a letter dated 23/7/2013 the NJC wrote to the President of NBA and copied the Chief Judge of Anambra State that the National Judicial Council (NJC) considered the explanations of the Chief Judge of Anambra State as satisfactory. That was the end of the petition. It need be said that there is a lot of malice at the Bar. The Bench from time to time get their fair share of terrorism from the Bar. It could be better. All the above notwithstanding it did not affect my preference to enhance the position of the Bar. That open minded approach paid off exceedingly. I left the Bench with the strong support and appreciation from the Bar which endures till today. Then the Chairman of the NBA Branches in Anambra State wrote a letter to see the Chief Judge, which letter did not contain the purpose of their visit. The Chief Judge was busy preparing for the legal year ceremonies for 2014/2015 coming up on 22/9/2014. The arrival proceeded well, spiced with light banter. Then things began to change, the Chairman of Chairmen asked another Chairman to speak for them, who began in a rather belligerent and disrespectful manner. I was told that they were sent by the National NBA to get answers on several issues. Their speaker reeled out 12 points of which I took notes as he spoke. It became clear that they came to my chambers to make trouble. The issues raised were purely administrative issues. I thought it preposterous and provocative but I kept quiet. The was abusive and spoke as if he came from a higher authority to with the Chief Judge would obey. But they were dabbling into matters which they knew absolutely nothing about. They left the worst for the last when they told me that all the Chairmen and their Executives have been invited by the new NBA President for a cocktail in Abuja and would be absent from our legal year ceremonies and only the Chairman of Chairmen would be left behind to read their address. I swallowed hard. When the man stopped talking I asked if he was done and he confirmed to me that he was done. I then said “Gentlemen I have heard all you said. I will give you my response on another day”. The meeting ended they left. Later I got a call from the Governor of Anambra State that the NBA President had reported to him that the Chief Judge walked out the lawyers who came to see him from his chambers. That the Chief Judge should apologise to the lawyers or the lawyers in Anambra State would boycott all the events of the Chief Judge. The Governor was worried and asked me to go and apologise to the lawyers. I narrated what transpired to the Governor and that I did not walk them out. The Governor saw that my version was different from what the NBA President told him and called back the NBA President prevailing instead on him to take the lawyers back to the Chief Judge and make the lawyers apologise to the Chief Judge for their rudeness. The President of NBA told the Governor that if that delegation was to happen it need not be led by him. The matter was again escalated when the Anambra NBA went to their NBA NEC meeting at Uyo and reported that the Chief Judge walked them out of his chambers. At this point 8 (eight) Senior Advocates of Nigeria came to see me on the matter I told them what transpired and gave them the list of 12 demands. They made it clear it was unacceptable to bring the Governor into a matter between the Chief Judge and the Bar. It came to fore that all the persons who were in my chambers on that day affirmed that the word I put above were the only words I spoke when the man finished speaking. None heard me walking them away. The NBA President and some Anambra lawyers were now rationalizing the matter that what I said amounts to walking them out of my chambers. The truth is that they came to provoke me but were frustrated and disappointed because I contained myself and dodged their belligerence. The SANs blamed the Branch Chairmen for not coming to them before reporting the matter again at Uyo. The SANs assured the Chief Judge that Friday next they would come and find out a convenient day when they would bring the Chairmen of the Branches and their Executive to apologise and the meeting ended with group photographs. I have laid out instances of two ‘brushes’ which from the outcome look like they were contrived. In the end senior members of the Bar investigated, found the bad faith in their action, brought them to apologise which I accepted and continued with my aim to reposition the Bar and the Bench when I had the opportunity to do so. The dire position in which legal practice was in Anambra State before I became Chief Judge is captured in my legal year ceremonies for 2012/2013 speech on 24/9/2012 inter alia “By a comparative chart drawn, the maximum number of shut down of courts in other jurisdiction all over the country would be 8 as against 18 for Anambra State. I think that we have a collective duty to the Judiciary and our conscience to accept that in the closure of court is archaic, an invitation to anarchy and bereft of christian charity. Apart from throwing the stakeholders into material want, the liberty of individuals, that priceless commodity is compromised”. When I became Chief Judge in 2011 I brokered peace between JUSUN and the Executive arm of Government which lasted until I left office in 2019. The Bar were able to do their business without hindrance. All High Courts in Anambra State were air conditioned, allowing court users to work for long hours in conducive environments. I am yet to be told another jurisdiction of the High Court in Nigeria which say the same thing. Magistrate Courts were completely refurbished. At my 60th birthday on 4/7/2015 I received an award of Committed Learned Friend and Patron of the Bar from Committee of Chairmen and Secretaries of NBA Anambra State. The beautiful plague was signed by all the officers at that time. In 2017 when I increased the Judicial Divisions from 7 to 10, the Chairman of Chairmen of the Bar branches, broke protocol and called the entire Bar to be upstanding and bow to the Chief Judge at the legal year ceremonies of 2017/2018 legal year. Thereat they collectively gave me the cognomen of The Shepherd of the Judiciary. History would contain a fuller chronicle of all that transpired in my time on Bench as Chief Judge and my efforts to lift the Bar.
Can you share with us the case that gave you the greatest challenge and test your professional competence and how did you manage to?
The case in Charge No. HN/5C/95, The State v Onuegbu and Anor in whichjudgement was delivered on 20/7/2001 by Umeadi J (as he then was) at the High Court Nnewi, unreported, come to mind. The matter began denovo on 16/6/97. The particulars of the offence were that the 1st and 2nd defendant wife and daughter to the deceased respectively on or about 23/3/90 at Abubor Nnewichi Nnewi in Nnewi Judicial Division unlawfully liked the deceased (husband and father to the 1st and 2nd defendants respectively).From the evidence at the trial the man was wont to send live chicken to 1st defendant to make chicken pepper soup which the deceased would eat on return from the market. On this day he returned and the chicken pepper soup was not ready. The 1st defendant said the little boy who brought the chicken home did not tie it properly so the chicken freed itself and ran off. The 1st defendant, the little boy and other persons joined in chasing the chicken and by the time it was caught it was late which accounts for the meal not being ready on time. The deceased and 1st defendant entered in an argument which degenerated into a fight. It was said that the 2nd defendant joined the fight. The deceased fell on the ground and he was taken to the hospital where he died after ten days. The Principal Medical Officer with the State Ministry of Health posted to the General Hospital at the time issued a report on post mortem findings and gave evidence as PW4 part of which was summed up thus inter alia… “The medical doctor Pw4 gave evidence that on examination of the corpse, he found lineal bruises on the posterior and anterior aspect of the head of the deceased. PW4 stated that in his opinion the injuries must have been caused by the deceased being beaten either with a metallic object leading to sub-dural hemorrhage. That as a result the deceased would have died of either pain or increased inter-cranial pressure. PW4 admitted in cross examination that if a man falls with that part of the body hitting against a metallic object or strong wooden object the same lineal bruises will occurs depending the distance of the fall. In re-examination however PW4 clarifies that one fall by a man could not give rise to lineal bruises in posterior and anterior-aspects of the head at one and the same time.I accepted as credible the evidence of the medical doctor PW4 and I believe in the opinion he gave as the cause of death of the deceased. In fact there is no contrary opinion as to the cause of death of the deceased”. There was PW1 whose evidence was summed thus inter alia “It is the evidence of PW1 that on 12/3/90 she saw the 1st and 2nd accused persons fighting the deceased. That she PW1 saw 1st accused first hitting the deceased on the forehead with an object. Then on one of those hitting the deceased held onto the object and the blow from the object landed on the left shoulder of the deceased. Then the object fell off the hand of the 1st accused person and was picked up by the 2nd accused person who started hitting the deceased with the same object at the back of the head. PW1 went on to testify that from where she was she saw the deceased fall down from those beating. At this point PW1 said she came down from the balcony of the two storey building where she observed all she said and came into the compound of the deceased. That while PW1 was in the compound of the deceased she saw that 1st accused person was with gallon containing palm wine which she was spraying on the fallen deceased. That 1st and 2nd accused persons were also pouring water on the deceased where he lay. Then PW1 started shouting and people gathered and helped the deceased to a seat. At this time PW1 said she left the scene of the incident for a while.” The evidence of PW1 was the only eye witness of the incident and was subject of fierce attack from the defence from diverse angles. The monkey wrench was thrown in this manner. The Police Inspector who was a corporal in the team that investigated the matter since 1990 turned up at the trial to give evidence for the 1st and 2nd accused person as DW1 against the prosecution. He abandoned the head of the investigating team who testified for the prosecution as PW6. PW6 at the time said that it was the DW1 in 1990 who recommended that the 1st accused be charged to court for manslaughter. The sole aim of this switch was to mar the evidence of PW1 the only eye witness to the incident. This development led the prosecution to apply for a visit to the locus in quo which the defense opposed but which the Court allowed. After the visit to the locus in quo, the parties reassembled in court and gave evidence of what transpired at the locus in quo. The judgement was summed up as follows inter alia. “I think the feet of clay of DW1 was exposed when he unsuccessfully tried to put a building on the space of the “german floor” on the date of the investigation where it was not there as I have shown. DW1 continually boasted that he conducted almost the entire investigation, but went on to puncture himself by quickly adding, he did so under the supervision of PW6. The visit to the locus in quo opened my eyes that PW6 was physically there and monitored the DW1 as if he had the premonition that DW1 will appear on a different side of the barn. DW1 must have been of the impression that contradiction coming from one of the investigating team would be capable of creating doubt and having the matter decided in favour of the accused persons. He must know by now that he was mistaken. The Police are not part of the crime. The Police come in after the crime to investigate except in preemptive instance. No matter what one does, crime has a way of leaving its own clues. In this instance the unobstructed view of PW1, the evidence of PW4 the medical doctor and the evidence of PW6 Chief Vincent Agbo, retired Inspector of Police who kept the faith are enough in my mind to establish the guilt of the 1st and 2nd accused persons. I think that DW1 is not a witness of truth. As I have said earlier, on what basis would even the 1st accused person be recommended for trial for manslaughter by DW1 without the favourable statement of PW1. How could a Police Officer who gave evidence under oath that he recommended that an accused person be charged for manslaughter come against the witness whose statement could only have given rise to his initial conclusion. DW1 is no more than a turn coat. Let him continue to get his rapid promotion and maybe it is people of his like that will never allow Nigerian Police Force to be reformed for good. I disbelieve the evidence of DW1.” It was held that the prosecution proved the charge against 1st & 2nd accused persons beyond reasonable doubt and 1st & 2nd accused were found guilty as charged and convicted. The work in this tortuous case did not end with the verdict. The offence for manslaughter is defined at Section 272 of the Criminal Code, Laws of Anambra State 1991. This definition stems from Section 270 of the Criminal Code (supra). The penalty for the offence of manslaughter is to be found at Section 279 of the Criminal Code and it is imprisonment for life. After the allocutus, I took cognizance of the fact that the 2nd accused was a minor of 15 years old on the date the crime was committed though she was 24 years old when she gave evidence. I called up PW3 in open court and had a lengthy talk with him. He first accepted that 2nd accused was his half-sister and both PW3 and 2nd accused are children of the deceased. I reasoned that it would be a double loss for one family when their father is deceased and his half sister be sent to prison. That at her age a prison term would ravage the remainder of her adult life. He accepted to take 2nd accused back and take care for her as the new head of the family. Bolstered by the compassion and charity of PW3, the 1st accused was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment without option of fine. The 2nd accused was given an option of fine which was paid in lieu of her prison term. With due modesty that conformed with the good law on sentencing. See also 2 Samuel 14:4-11
How did you feel arriving at judgments in cases that had capital or the maximum price as sanctions?
Judges ought not have attachment to case before them other than doing their duty, which is applying the law to facts which in criminal matters have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. “If conviction is to be, the prosecution must prove the case beyond reasonable doubt” Woolmington VDPP (1935) AC 462 per, Viscount Sankey. The parties have a right of appeal from the court below. Again it should not be the concern of the Judge what happens to the matter on appeal except to keep tab. All concern and industry should be invested during the trial to apply the rule of law. One of the aspects of the rule of law thrown up in Woolmington’s case is that the burden of proof never shifts in criminal cases but remain with the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt, the guilt of the accused person. On the front page of Vanguard Newspaper of Tuesday November 24 2009 was the headline “Rule of law hinders ex-governors trial, say EFCC”. The story says “The EFCC has bemoaned the strict adoption of the rule of law mantra by the Federal Government, lamenting that former governors and other political –exposed person, were hiding under it to dodge trial” How untrue! The rationale to tread carefully in criminal trials have been espoused from a very long time. In 1748 Voltaire wrote of “the great principle that it is better to run the risk of sparing the guilty man than to condemn the innocent” At about the same time Blackstone noted approvingly “the law holds that it is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer” See Article by Reiman and Haag on Cambridge Core on the subject. Elsewhere I put the issue thus inter alia “ I respectfully recommend that all the three arms of government in all tiers in Nigeria ought to go back and read Lakanmi’s case judgement. The EFCC, ICPC, Nigeria Police, the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, the Nigerian Bar Association and indeed all personages in this hall ought to read this judgement again. It was about fighting corruption and the Supreme Court took sides with the rule of law which translate to justice according to law. The rule of law connotes observation of the rules. It could not function without civility. Law enforcement often get impatient and sometimes frustrated with what they term the slow pace of bringing justice against those who have been charged with crime. The hexameter first issued by an unknown poet, then quoted by Sextus Empiricus and then by Plutarch would suffice as follows “The millstones of the gods, grind late, but they grind fine” It does not call for any feelings because “punishment is an obligation to do justice”. See Reiman and Haag: Cambridge Core. (supra)
Why did you decide to go into lecturing when you retired from the Bench? How do feel at the level of your students at the highest echelon of the judiciary?
It is said that when one retires and go to sleep the brain goes to sleep and one dies. It is recommended that on retirement one engages with something to keep up the pace of work he was used to even if on a milder tone. Section 6 (3), (4) and (5) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007 (as amended) stipulate thus “(3) A judicial officer who has retired shall not practice as an advocate in any court of law or judicial tribunal in Nigeria. (4) A judicial officer who has retired shall not sign pleading in any court (5) A judicial officer who has retired may continue to use the word “Justice” aspart of his name.” The provisions are clear. In the area of law practice a retired judge may set up only a consultancy on legal matters and his name would not appear in any of the work he does. I applied to the Faculty of Law University of Nigeria at Enugu Campus, my alma mater, for a space to assist in lecturing at the Law Faculty. That move was warmly received and it was a pleasant surprise to me when I received a contract appointment from University appointing me a Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Law. I resumed work on the 27/3/2019. I was posted to the Department of Private Law. My Head of Department posted me to teach Legal Clinic and Moot Practice. I have specifically taken up the now rechristened “Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007 reflected through case law” which I discuss the 56 Sections therein. What I do is that I search for case law which have treated the 56 sections of Rules spread in A,B,C,D,E,F,G chapters. I give credit to my LawPavilion Prime App which allow me to work and search out the matching legal authorities. My Head of Department hopes that the lessons notes should be put in a print form. I have so far taught 2 classes in 2 semesters. We stopped in February 2020 when ASUU strike erupted again. Thereafter Covid-19 lock down took over and nine months since we have been at home. The students are well behaved. My first lecture on Legal Ethics was at the Justice Mary Peter Odili Auditorium at UNEC at which many classes were allowed to attend. Over 250 students were seated. On that day, in my one-hour lecture there was pin drop silence. That impressed me a great deal. I would say that the serenity of a court room is one of the aspects of my work in the Judiciary that I miss. I must confess that when I began to take single classes after that first lecture the classroom noises and murmurs returned and these could be distracting. Again in that I have quickly adjusted. The pole position of a judge nay Chief Judge is gone. This is a citadel of learning, all things should be clearly explained and understood. The real aspect is that as a teacher it is your duty to make yourself understood. Albert Einstein said that “if you can’t explain it simply, you do not understand it well enough” In the Department of Private law, we have also improved on our capacity to teach moot court practice by assembling the needed books and materials. Many other staff have been engaged in that respect. Recently our students attended the L’ avocat 3.0. Brief Writing and Mooting Competition 2019 organized by Kayode Eso Chambers, University of Lagos. The University of Nigeria, clinched TWO of the available THREE prizes. Kudos to our Head of Department and Director of UNN Law Clinic, Dr. T.O. Umahi. I have also been nominated as a member of the Board of Editorial Advisers of the Faculty of Law of Godfrey Okoye University Enugu
Which of your decisions do you consider to be landmark or locus classicus that enriched our legal jurisprudence?
In my time on Bench I wrote many decisions. Time and effort would be required to go through all of them and determine which ones enhanced our jurisprudence. For now let me enumerate a few that are handy.
1(A) In Suit No. A/1C/2013, Federal Republic of Nigeria v Dr. Okechukwu Odunze & 7Ors. The 1st, 3rd and 5th defendant applicants filed a notice of preliminary objection dated 20/3/13 praying for the following (1) an order striking out or quashing the charge contained in Charge No A/1C/2013 levelled against the 1st, 3rd, and 5th accused person for being incurably defective. (2) an order striking out or quashing the charges contained in charge on the following grounds (i) That the charges against 1st, 3rd and 5th accused persons are founded on a repealed law; The Corruption Practice and other Related Offences Act No 5 of 2000 repealed by Section 55 of Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act No. 6 of 2003 Cap C31 LFN 2004.
(ii) That the alleged offences committed by the 1st, 3rd & 5th accused persons were committed after the abrogation of the Corrupt Practice and other Related Offences Act No. 5 of 2000. In the ruling delivered on 4/2/2014 by Umeadi CJ (as he then was) it was stated inter alia “From all I have said above I hold that the CPC Act No. 5 of 2000 is the extant law. See FRN v Anache 2013 1 1CPCLR 634; Attorney General Ondo v Attorney Federation & Ors 2013 1 ICPCLR P. 254; Olafisoye v FRN (204) 4 NWLR pt. 864 @ P. 580; Suit FHC/ABT/CS/93/2003 Hon. Bala Kaoje & 4 Ors v The National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria & 13 Ors per Egbo Egbo J (as he then was). A look at both Acts would show that the composition of their membership are radically different. The CPC Act No. 6 of 2003 stipulates that the Chairman should be a serving Justice of the Court of Appeal which the current Chairman of ICPC functioning under the CPC Act No. 5 of 2000 is not. It is an irony therefore that CPC Act. No. 5 of 2000 is not contained in the Laws Federation of Nigeria 2004 while the CPC Act No. 6 of 2003 is. That anomaly should be corrected immediately. The surest pointer to the recognition of the CPC Act No. 5 of 2000 by the Federal Government of Nigeria is that they continue to recognize and deal with the members of the CPC No. 5 of 2000. I further hold that CPC Act No. 6 of 2003 has been voided and nullified and ought not to remain in the statute books. See Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/93/2003 Hon. Bala Kaije & 4 Ors v The National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria & 13 Ors (supra). Suit No. FCT/HC/CR/44/2010 FRN v Dr. Aboki Zhawa & Zors (unreported). The preliminary objection of the 1st,3rd and 5th defendants/applicants lack merit and is dismissed. I hereby make the following orders. (1) The CPC Act No. 5 of 2000 is the void and subsisting legislation on the matter and ought to be included in the compiled Laws of Federation of Nigeria (2) The CPC Act No. 6 of 2003 is null valid and of no effect and ought to be expunged from the compiled Laws of the Federation of Nigeria. (3) Pursuant to the meaning at Section 318 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) I hereby make a recommendation that the Hon. Attorney General and Minister for Justice of Nigeria to (i) include the CPC Act No. 5 of 2000 in the compiled Laws of the Federation of Nigeria forthwith and (ii) expunge the CPC Act No. 6 of 2003 from the compiled Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, forthwith.
1(B) In Suit No. A/182/2016, All Progressive Congress (APC) & 21 Ors v Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission & 28 Ors, The Plaintiffs by Originating Summons dated 20/4/16 claim the 13 (thirteen) reliefs against the defendants. The judgement delivered on Thursday 18/9/2017 by Umeadi CJ (as he then was) read inter alia “The Originating Summons of the 1st to 22nd plaintiffs succeed in part and I make the following orders. (a)It is hereby declared that section 7(1) the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Section 4(1) and Section 59 of the Local Government Law of Anambra State 1999 (as amended) guarantees the existence of a democratically elected government in the 21 Local Government Councils of Anambra State (b)It is hereby declared that Section 208 (2) – (6) as amended (supra) were made in consonance with good legislative practice to fill a vacuum which may occur in future and in this case is in tandem with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(as amended) and was validly made by the 6th defendant and is a competent law to be put into use by the 4th defendant in appropriate circumstances (c) it is declared that there is no basis at law and in fact either to declare the 2nd – 22nd plaintiffs as winners of election to the named Local Government Council in Anambra State or to be issued Certificates of Return as there were no election held and they were not validly nominated candidates of a political party as envisaged by Section 64(3) of the Local Government Law of Anambra State 1999(as amended) (d) It is hereby declared that the appointment of the 9th to 29th defendants as Chairmen Transition Committee at the expiration of their tenure as Chairmen of elected Councils on 12/1/2016 by the 4th defendant in the absence of an emergency or such like situation is wrongful, unconstitutional, Illegal null void and of no effect. (e) It is hereby ordered that 1st defendant pursuant to Section 64(1) of the Local Government Law 1999 (as amended) appoint a date within 90 days from today for election into the offices of Chairmen and Members of the Local Government Councils which became vacant on 12/1/2016.
1(C) The Petition no. EDGV/EPT/1/07 Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole &Anor v INEC & 21 Ors went on appeal as INEC v Oshiomhole (2009) 4 NWLR(pt 11 32) 607. “Along the line the Chairman attained the mandatory age of 65 years, retired from the Judiciary of Kwara State and left the panel. Surprisingly I was appointed the Chairman. At this time we had about 18 days left to the time fixed for the judgement in the gubernatorial election petition. The panel now consisting of Umeadi J as Chairman (now CJ Anambra State), Tahir J (then) Obande J (now of the Court of Appeal) and Anjor J (Cross River State Judiciary) held our mandatory meeting on the judgement of the gubernatorial election petition. The lot fell on my humble self to write the judgement which pronounced the petitioner Adams Oshiomhole as the validly elected Governor of Edo State of Nigeria in the gubernatorial election of April 2007……… I read that judgement from a manuscript of 183 pages on Thursday March 20th 2008, which lasted forabout 6 hours. Later when it was typed it came to 119 pages. The rest is history” The above quote was taken from “Judgement Writing: Practical Hints” by Umeadi J (as he then was) p. 241 – 259 of the book “The Day the Eagle Emerged” (supra). Undoubtedly whatever accolade emanating from this judgement belong to all us on the panel equally. However, the exigency of the moment made it that the other members of the panel heard the full text of the judgement for the first time when it was read out in the open tribunal. Permit me to quote from the review on the judgement written by the Rt. Hon. Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, OON, SAN, JP, titled “The Day the Eagle Emerged” which became the name of the book. (supra) at pp 264 – 265 as follows inter alia “The tension was felt not just in Edo State but even on television all over the country as His Lordship in a most painstaking manner and with surgical expertise and precision excised the chaff – the invalid votes – from the grain – the lawful votes and brought down the only power capable of physically protecting the arbiters from clear and present danger. The Court of Appeal in INEC v Oshiomhole (2009) 4 NWLR (part 1132) 607, found no difficulty in not only endorsing the decision of the Tribunal but also protected and quoted in extenso the painstaking and serene findings of fact made and amply supported by well-researched judicial pronouncement of superior courts. It is exhilarating that with the dearth of judicial pronouncement of the word “not less than one quarter of all votes cast…. In the State” as used in Section 179(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria the Court of Appeal in CA/E/EPT/G/08/2010 and CA/E/EPT/G/04/2010 resorted to INEC v Oshiomhole (supra) with particular reference to the efforts of Hon Justice P.N.C. Umeadi, CJ in the excision of “invalid votes” on which alone viability may be conferred on a declaration made at an election.
2004(”D) In Suit No. 0/265/2004 Chief (Prof) A.N.A. Modebe & 10 Ors (for themselves and on behalf of Ikporo Onitsha Co-operatives) v Igwe Okonkwo of Amansi; Exparte (1) Lazarus Uba (2) Innocent Iwuagwu, ruling was delivered at High Court Onitsha on 23/7/2004 by Umeadi J (as he then was) inter alia “Therein it was established that Section 7(5) of the Constitution (supra) refer to the 4th Schedule where functions conferred by law upon Local Government Councils are set out in parts. Section 1(e) of the 4th Schedule (supra) set out one of the main functions of the Local Government as follows, establishment, maintenance and regulation of slaughter houses, slaughter slabs, markets, motor parts and public conveniences. It is clear that from the passage quoted above that the Anambra State Government does not have the power to establish or maintain or regulate the market at Ose Okwodu market Onitsha. That duty would fall upon the Local Government under whose jurisdiction the market in situate …. I respectfully say that the law as enunciated by the Supreme Court in Knight Frank & Rutley v Attorney General of Kano State (1998) NLR page 19 is still the good law on the issue. In this instance the effect of the Constitution is undiluted as the Section 1(e) relevant here stand on its own and does not need any enabling law from Anambra State to come to life. It is a constitutional provision pure and simple and being the supreme law it takes its force, effect and power instantly. I therefore hold that from all I have said above that the Anambra State Government did not have the power to make Exhibit 3 attached to the affidavit in support. In effect the Anambra State Government through her Hon. Commissioner for Special Utilities acted ultra vires when it made Exhibit 3 on 5/4/2004. I hold that Exhibit 3 is null and void and of no effect. I am therefore not able now to make the Attorney General of Anambra State a part in this suit to represent the State as there is nothing in the subject matter of this suit which directly concerns or connects the Anambra State Government.”
Finally, you joined the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) last year do you have an interest in politics, what is your interest
Yes, After I retired from the Judiciary I joined the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). In Nigeria, the democratic dispensation is hinged on political parties. There is no provision for independent candidates. Any person who wishes to contest for any political position could only do so through any of the registered political parties. I intend to seek the ticket of APGA to contest the election for President of Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023.
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