National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, has pressed for the transfer to another court, a case involving his party the All Progressives Congress from Justice Augusta U. Kingsley-Chukwu of the Rivers State High Court, demanding that she be compossorily retired.
Oshiomhole's request is contained in two separate letters dated 27th December, 2019, addressed to the Chief Judge of Rivers State Justice A.I. Iyayi-Lamikanra, the Chief Justice of Nigeria/Chairman, National Judicial Council Justice Mohammed Tanko.
In his letter to the Chief Judge of Rivers State, the APC National Chairman applied for a transfer of Suit No. OHC/4355/2019 from Kingsley-Chukwu of the Rivers State High Court to another Judge of the Rivers State High Court, stating that her husband is a member of the PDP, on account of which they have lost confidence in her ability to impartially and objectively determine the suit without any interference.
However, in his letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria/Chairman, National Judicial Council, Oshiomhole called for the compulsory retirement of Kingsley-Chukwu for alleged breach of the code of conduct for judicial officers.
Oshiomhole, who said he was compelled to send both petitions, considering the sacredness of the judicial office, gave the same background to the issue, which is that "Following the Supreme Court decision nullifying the congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State and effectively disqualifying the APC from participating in the 2019 gubernatorial elections in Rivers State, the APC decided to restrategise and reposition the party.
"On 6th September, 2019 the APC constituted a Caretaker Committee to pilot the affairs of the party in Rivers State. The APC also scheduled the conduct of Congresses to elect the leaders of the party at various levels. One Ibrahim Umah immediately instituted Suit No. PHC/3098/2019 at the Rivers State High Court challenging inter alia the proposed congresses of the APC and obtained an interim injunction restraining the APC from conducting the proposed congresses. The APC objected to the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit and on 18th December, 2019, the Court struck out the Suit for want of jurisdiction, thereby allowing the APC to proceed with its re-strategising process."
He said before the court rendered its decision striking out Suit No. PHC/3098/2019, one Igo Aguma filed a similar suit (Suit No. OHC/4355/2019) against the APC challenging the composition of the Caretaker Committee.
The action, he said was commenced by Originating Summons on 16th December, 2019, assigned to Hon. Justice Augusta U. Kingsley- Chukwu, and applications seeking interlocutory and interim injunctions were filed alongside the originating process. He said "By the civil procedure rules of the Rivers State High Court, the APC was entitled to 21 days within which to enter an appearance and file their necessary processes in defence. "Curiously, it was brought to our attention that Hon. Justice Augusta U. Kingsley-Chukwu had abridged that time to 48 hours. Our curiosity was further heightened when we discovered that the husband of Hon. Justice Augusta U. Kingsley-Chukwu is a top leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who had previously contested for the position of Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area and currently serves as the Legal Adviser of the PDP in Rivers State.
"Expectedly, the APC had reasonable apprehension that Hon. Justice Augusta U. Kingsley-Chukwu may not be able to discharge her duties as a judicial officer objectively without interference."
He said unsettled by this development, the APC in Rivers State immediately forward a petition to the Chief Judge of Rivers State requesting for a reassignment of suit to another judge of the Rivers State High Court for adjudication.
"This petition was endorsed to Hon. Justice Augusta U. Kingsley-Chukwu. On 20th December, 2019, the suit was listed before Hon. Justice Augusta U. Kingsley-Chukwu for hearing of the pending applications. Our counsel drew the attention of the court to the petition pending before the Chief Judge, as well as the weighty allegations contained therein. I expected Hon. Justice Augusta U. Kingsley-Chukwu to have followed the time-honoured tradition of judicial officers like Hon. Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, President of the Court of Appeal and Hon. Justice Mary Peter-0dili, JSC, who had recused themselves from adjudicating over cases that would likely impact on the political interest of their spouses.
"Disappointingly, Hon. Justice Augusta U. Kingsley-Chukwu proceeded to entertain the suit and granted an injunction restraining the APC and the Caretaker Committee from taking any steps whatsoever. Curiously, the court did not consider either the pending applications but proceeded to grant the injunction upon the oral application of the plaintiffs counsel despite the fact that the injunction granted was different from the reliefs sought in either the applications or the substantive suit.
"By reason of the above facts, we have lost all confidence in the ability of Hon. Justice Augusta U. Kingsley-Chukwu to impartially and objectively determine Suit No. OHC/4355/2019 without any interference. Since justice is rooted in confidence, it is indeed our duty to bring the loss of such confidence to your Lordship's attention so that our belief in the judicial process will be restored. In the circumstances, we hereby apply for a reassignment of Suit No. OHC/4355/20l9 from Honourable Justice Augusta U. Kingsley-Chukwu to another Judge for expeditious determination."
Added to this in the letter to the Chief Justice of the Federation, is Oshiomohole's request that she be compulsorily retired, stating "By reason of the above facts, we believe that the Hon. Justice Augusta U. Kingsley-Chukwu has broken the letters and spirit of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers and has engaged in acts unbecoming of a judicial officer.
"Equally, we believe that the action of the Hon. Justice Augusta U. Kingsley- Chukwu in granting orders which were not prayed by a party in such a contentious suit smacks of poor knowledge of the law, and such a judicial officer should be compulsorily retired and not allowed to continue to preside over the fate of members of the public Without the requisite knowledge of the law."