ABIA TUSSLE: DELAY TACTICS WON'T WORK THIS TIME

Press Statement

The South-East Democratic Coalition (SEDC), a pro-democracy group, yesterday called on the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen to immediately intervene in the undue harassment and intimidation of judges presently handling the legal issues concerning the Governorship seat of Abia state.Dr Uche Ogah and Okezie Ikpeazu are presently at the Supreme Court seeking to know who between the two is the authentic governor of the state.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had last year issued certificate of return to Dr Ogah as the validly elected givernor of the state following the ruling of the Federal High Court, Abuja presided over hy Justice Okon Abang. The appellate court however gave a different ruling disagreeing with the court below prompting the issue getting to the apex court.

But in a press statement issued on Thursday in Enugu, the SEDC alleged that the same group that battled unsuccessfully to intimidate and possibly frustrate Justice Abang into abandoning the case at the Federal High Court through threat messages have once more moved to the apex court with a view to dragging the case in perpetuity.

Justice Amina Augie, one of the justices handling the case at the apex court had reclused herself at the resumed hearing of the matter last Tuesday claiming that since those loyal to one of the parties in the matter, Dr Ikpeazu had accused her of being biased when the matter was still at the appellate court level, withdrawing from the case was the most appropriate thing to do.

The group in the statement signed by SEDC Coordinator, Dr Maduka Okebanama and Secretary, Barr. Eunice Oke claimed that the same faceless people that sent uncountable threat messages to Justice Abang had already started making similar moves to consistently harras justices of the apex court.

The group therefore asked the NJC and the Acting CJN to prevail on the justices handling the matter at the apex court to report ahy form of harrasement "from any quarters" to the Department of State Service (DSS) and the police instead of succumbing to the legion of threats.

"Recall that Justice Abang before delivering his judgement last year had first of all declared in the open court that he received countless threat messages from different lines but that he was going ahead with the judgement and that heavens will not fall and expectedly heaven did not fall. Abang showed boldness and did not bow to the threats.

"We are however worried that he did not involve the security agencies. This time around, nothing should be left to chance. NJC owes it a duty to protect the judges. A circular should be immediately issued directing the judges to report to not just the council but also the DSS and police any form of harrasement from any quarters before, during and after the delivery of this all important judgement.

"The judges should know that the destiny of millions of Abians have been placed on the hands. These people have been left to totter in abject poverty and penury as a result of non-payment of their salaries for months, non-payment of pensions for several years. Poor infrastructure and total mal-administration in the hands of people who care less of the welfare or wellbeing of the people. This is the only opportunity they have to be liberated and the judges should know that and therefore should not allow anybody to cow them out of delivering justice without fear or favour, " the statement noted.

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