BEVERLY HILLS, February 19, (THEWILL) – Justice Lambo Akanbi of the Federal High Court Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Wednesday faulted the swearing-in of Justice Peter N.C Agumagu, the President of the Customary Appeal Court as Acting Chief Judge of Rivers State, and thus nullified his appointment.
Delivering his ruling in the suit challenging Agumagu’s appointment filed by the Kengena Unity Forum led by Boma Goodhead and Ajenyanate Samuel, Justice Akanbi said the appointment “contravened the provisions of section 271, sub-section 4 of the 1999 constitution which is very clear, explicit and without ambiguity” that the most senior judge in the state High Court should be appointed Acting Chief Judge.
Governor Rotimi Amaechi had on August 20, 2013, amidst controversy and public outcry administered the oath of office to Justice Agumagu following the retirement of former Chief Judge, Justice Iche Ndu.
“The question as to who qualifies to be appointed as acting chief judge of the state has generated a lot of needless controversy. The provision of section 271, sub-section 4 of the constitution is very clear, explicit and without ambiguity. It says the governor shall appoint the most senior judge of the High Court. The question is who is my noble Lord Honourable Justice P.N.C Agumagu and where does he belong? Is he a judge of the High Court of Rivers State, appointed pursuant to the provision of Section 270, sub-section 1 of the Constitution or a judge of the Customary Court of Appeal under Section 280, sub-section 1 of the same Constitution?
“I have evidence before me unchallenged that his Lordship, my Lord, the Honourable Justice P.N.C Agumagu is a judge and indeed, the President of the Customary Court of Appeal of Rivers State. The inevitable conclusion I have reached is that His Lordship, the Honourable Justice P.N.C. Agumagu, is not qualified as a State High Court Judge hence he is not suitable and unqualified to be appointed as Acting Chief Judge of the High Court of Rivers State.
“The only consequential order I should make in the circumstance is to direct the governor to comply with the constitutional provision on the appointment of an acting chief judge of the State High Court as provided under Section 271, sub-section 4 of the 1999 Constitution. That shall be the judgement of the court,” Justice Akanbi declared.
The Rivers State Government through its counsel in the suit, Mr. Tuduru Ede said the government would appeal the ruling.