Rivers CJ’s Suit: Court denies issuing restraining order

Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has held that he did not make an  order to stay the suspension of Justice P.H.C Agumagu of Rivers state judiciary pending the determination of the suit filed by the suspended  judge.

The National Judicial Council NJC had in a statement on March 27 announced Justice Agumagu’s suspension, noting that his appointment as the Chief Judge of Rivers state  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.

Not satisfied with the suspension, Agumagu had through his counsel, Chief Akinlolu Olujinmi SAN dragged the NJC and three others before the Federal High Court challenging his suspension.
Other respondents 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.

Ruling on the ex-parte application on March 31, the court ordered the NJC to produce and file in the court a certified true copy of the minutes of the emergency meeting of the council held on March 26 containing the decisions taken concerning the applicant.

Counsel to Agumagu had in a letter written to the Chairman of the NJC stated among other things that the court granted, “an order pursuant to Order 34 rule 3(6) of the rules of the Federal High Court, directing that the grant of leave shall operate as a stay of proceedings or any further actions by the respondents in respect of the investigation of the applicant for which the 1st respondent has set up the panel of the 2nd to 4th respondents until the court otherwise orders”.

At the resumed hearing yesterday, the court insisted that it did not stay the suspension of the applicant but rather ordered NJC to produce the minutes of meeting where Agumagu was suspended.
Just before the court proceeds to hear the substantive suit, the second respondent notified the court that he had not been served with the Motion on Notice and that he only got to know about the suit through a letter written by the applicant to the NJC.

The court however ordered that the second respondent be served and consequently adjourned till May 5 for hearing of the Motion on Notice.
Earlier, the court had noted that there was clerical error in the ruling it delivered on March 31 on the ex parte application brought by the applicant as two orders were omitted.

The court however read out the corrected version of the order it made. Counsel to the applicant who had earlier filed a motion on notice praying the court to correct the clerical error later withdrew it.

Meanwhile, a group, Incorporated Trustees of Kengema Unity Forum and two others have dragged the Attorney General of Rivers state and six others before a Federal High Court sitting in Port-Harcourt seeking to void the swearing in of Justice Agumagu without the recommendation of the NJC.
Joined the suit are, Attorney General of the Federation, Governor of Rivers state, NJC, Justice Daisy Okocha, Justice Agumagu and the Rivers state House of Assembly as second to seventh respondents.

The applicants also want an order of injunction restraining Justice Agumagu from acting as the substantive Chief Judge of the High Court of Rivers state.
The group also wants an order of mandamus compelling the Governor of Rivers state to comply with the mandatory provisions of Section 271(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and the consequent order in its judgement in Suit No. FHC/PHC/CS/358/2013 delivered on February 19.

In the suit , Justice Agumagu is praying 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.

He also wants the court to grant an injunction restraining the respondents from taking any steps or actions to enforce the decision suspending him from office as a judicial officer and from acting or taking any further decision against him in recognition to the said suspension.
Agumagu also prays for an injunction restraining the respondents from taking any step towards the threat of his removal as a judicial officer as communicated in the NJC’s letter.

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