Concerns were raised as to why the Rivers State Government decided to violate its own rules in the appointment of a Chief Judge of the state after the National Judicial Council (NJC) announced the confirmation of Justice S.C Amadi as the next CJ.
Some concerned Lawyers in Port Harcourt had criticized Governor Nyesom Wike’s decision to appoint Justice Amadi ahead of Justice Justice J.N Akpughunum, who is the most senior Judge in the Rivers State High Court as the current CJ, Justice Adama Iyaye Lamikanra retires.
Analyst kicked against Justice Amadi’s appointment by Governor Nyesom Wike who in 2013 spearheaded the opposition against his predecessor’s decision to appoint Justice P.C.N Agumagu instead of Justice Daisy Okocha (rtd), who was the most senior Judge of the Rivers State High Court at the time.
But reacting to the criticism, Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof Zacchaeus Adangor, said neither the National Judicial Council (NJC) nor the Governor of the state is obligated to recommend or appoint the most senior Judge of the High Court as substantive Chief Judge of a State.
Adangor argued that it was wrong for the concerned lawyers to rely on what they termed “Judicial tradition” to demand that the NJC recommend Justice Joy Akpughunum to the Governor of Rivers State as the next substantive Chief Judge based on seniority from amongst the serving Judges on the High Court Bench of Rivers State.
Citing Section 271(1),(2),(3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, he said there are two separate schemes governing the appointment of Chief Judge of a state.
He acknowledged that for the appointment of an acting Chief Judge of the state under Section 271(4), the constitution explicitly states that the Governor shall appoint the most senior Judge of the High Court to perform the functions of that office.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Justice said, “there is no prescription that the Governor must appoint the most senior Judge of the High Court as the substantive Chief Judge of the State based on the recommendation of the NJC.
“It is clear from the foregoing that the most senior Judge of the High Court of the state is entitled to be appointed by the Governor as the Acting Chief Judge but there is no such entitlement to the office of substantive Chief Judge of the State. To put it plainly, seniority of the judges on the High Court Bench is relevant only where the appointment of the Chief Judge of the State is in an acting capacity.
Seniority has no relevance whatsoever where the appointment of the Chief Judge of the state is in a substantive capacity.”