A civil society organisation, Forum for Accountability and Good Leadership has petitioned the National Judicial Council against a judge of the Imo State High Court, Justice B. C. Iheka and the State Chief Judge (CJ) and Justice, T. R. Chukwuemeka-Chikeka.
The group asked the NJC to punish the High Court Judge for granting an ex parte order restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from concluding the election into the Isu/Njaba/Nkwerre/Nwangele Federal Constituency of Imo State, despite his lack of jurisdiction on the case.
The forum equally indicted the CJ of Imo State over alleged administrative failures in assigning a case to a judge who had been sworn in as a member of the Election Petition Tribunal.
The group noted that the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the federal constituency, Harrison Nwadike, had filled a suit marked HOW/274/2023, against Prof. Mrs. Roseta Okechukwu, the Returning Officer for the election.
It explained that Justice Iheka, while ruling on the matter, had ruled that, “Until the supplementary election for the entire 133 Polling Units in the 11 Wards of Njaba Local Government Area is conducted by INEC, the defendant, or any other person, whomsoever and howsoever, acting in her stead is hereby restrained from announcing or declaring the result of the 2023 Isu/Njaba/Nkwerre/Nwangele Federal Constituency election, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice in this case.”
The group, at a press conference yesterday, said they had written a petition to the NJC to look into the actions of the judge.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Tochukwu Ohazuruike, alleged that the judge knew he was without jurisdiction when he made the order.
He cited provisions of the constitution and the Electoral Act to back up the claim that State High courts do not have jurisdiction in elections matters such as this and also the fact that INEC being a proper party was not joined in the suit, yet the judge restrained INEC from completing the process.”
Ohazuruike further alleged that the prayers of the plaintiff in the Writ of Summons were also the prayers granted by the court in the ex parte, saying the implication was that without hearing the defendant or any other person who was interested in the case including the PDP candidate who had filed for joinder, the court determined the prayers of the plaintiff.
The group further indicted the Chief Judge of Imo State Justice, over what it called administrative failures in assigning such a case to a judge who she knew was not going to be available having been sworn in as a member of Election Petition Tribunal.
The group recalled that sometime in July 2021, Justice Iheka also in very controversial circumstances had declared one Hon. Chukwuma Umeoji as the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance in Anambra State even while sitting in Imo State High Court.
The group said, “Does His Lordship even understand that there is something called jurisdiction of Courts?”
It further alleged that attempts to get copies of the Certified True Copies of documents in the case also revealed that the file could not be accounted for.
It claimed that while the Judge had claimed that he had returned the file to the Office of the Chief Judge for reassignment to another Judge, the Office of the Chief Judge did not have record of the file being returned to them and the clerk to Justice could not explain where the file was.
The group finally called on the NJC to ensure that justice was done to serve as a deterrent for other desperate politicians and judicial officers from flagrantly violating our electoral laws and processes.