The suspended Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice P.H.C. Agumagu, has dragged the National Judicial Council before an Abuja Federal High Court to challenge his suspension.
He is also challenging the Council’s threat to sack him for accepting the appointment as the state Chief Judge.
Justice Agumagu asked the court to restrain members of an investigation panel set up to investigate the allegations against him from taking any further steps in respect of his case until the determination of the suit.
Besides the NJC, others listed as defendants in the suit numbered FHC/ABJ/CS/253/2014 are Justices Babatunde Adejumo, Jubril Idris and Comwell Idahosa, who are chairman and members of the panel set up by the NJC to investigate allegations against him.
The suspended CJ wants the court to grant him “an order of certiorari (judicial review) removing to this court for the purpose of being quashed the query and letter of suspension from office of the applicant as a judicial officer, Ref. No. NJC /S.32/RV.CCA/1/1/36 dated March 26, 2014 written by the 1st respondent to the applicant.”
In the same vein, he also asked for “an order of certiorari, removing to this court for the purpose of being quashed, the minutes of the decisions reached by the 1st respondent at its emergency meeting of March 26, 2014 concerning the applicant.”
Justice Adeniyi Ademola had, after hearing the ex parte motion filed by Justice Agumagu, granted him leave to serve processes on the respondents.
The suit will come up for hearing on April 10.
The NJC had in a statement on March 27 announced Justice Agumagu’s suspension, noting that his appointment was illegal, as it did not comply with the provisions of section 271 of the 1999 Constitution, which stipulated that a state governor must appoint a Chief Judge on the recommendation of the NJC.
The NJC stressed that it did not recommend Justice Agumagu for appointment as the state’s Chief Judge.
Besides the suspension, Justice Agumagu is also facing dismissal as the NJC has queried him, asking him to explain why he should not be dismissed as a judicial officer for failing to abide by his Oath of Office.
However, despite the position of the apex judicial body, the Rivers State Government has insisted that Justice Agumagu remains the CJ of the state.
The state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Worgu Boms, said the suspension was illegal and unconstitutional.
“The Rivers State Government rejects the NJC’s unconstitutional and contemptuous stance on this matter and states categorically that only a court of competent jurisdiction can declare its actions and activities unconstitutional and certainly not a council, committee or commission, however so described, when such bodies, no matter their nomenclature and the eminence of their membership, are subject to the law of the land,” Boms said.