A fact-finding Committee of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) has uncovered the reason for the closure of the Owerri Judicial Division of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) since June this year.
According to the committee, the withdrawal of the police orderly and security details of the Presiding Judge of the Owerri Division of the NICN, Justice I .S. Galadima on June 3, 2022 made the president of the court to announce the closure of the Owerri Division.
The committee which comprised Chidi B. Nworka (Chairman); U. N. Nwakaeti(member) and Kingsley C. Ehujuo (Secretary) also found out that Justice Galadima’s life was also threatened by a top functionary of the state government.
The top functionary was quoted as telling Justice Galadima; “If he was not careful in giving judgments against the Imo State Government, the thing that happens in Imo State will happen to him”.
In addition, a battery of policemen whisked away four members of staff of the NICN namely Chima Emeka Ndukwe, Akoma Jeremiah, Ikedi Amadi and Nze Moses Chigozie and detained them for allegedly going to steal Imo State Government money from the Wetheral Road Owerri branch of Zenith Bank Plc.
The bone of contention between the court and the Imo State government is Suit No: NICN/OW/16/2019 instituted by the former deputy governor of the state, Prince Eze Madumere against the Imo State Governor and 2 Others.
In the suit, Prince Madumere had demanded for the payment of his entitlements while he served the state government.
The committee established that the Imo State government failed to file any defence throughout the hearing of the case till judgment was delivered on June 1, 2021in favour of Prince Madumere.
It however established that the state government through the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice sought for several adjournments to enable the parties settle out of court, a settlement that did not materialize.
It accused L. M. Alozie, SAN, Counsel to the Imo State government on garnishee aspect of the matter of gross professional misconduct.
According to the committee, L. M. Alozie in addition to filing a notice of appeal without intention of serving the notice also engaged the Divisional Registrar of the court in mudslinging on telephone, accusing the court including the judge of ‘doing business’ with people’s cases instead of dispensing justice.
Alozie also denied preparing the processes filed at an Imo State High Court for an order to unseal Zenith Bank, only for the Attorney-General to insist that he (Alozie) prepared the processes.
The committee equally found out that Alozie engaged the judge on telephone concerning the matter pending before his court without reference to the counsel to the plaintiff, K. C. O Njemanze, SAN, a conduct in breach of Rules of Professional Conduct.
The committee regretted the subterfuge and tricks deployed by the state government in handling the matter and urged the state governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma to give assurances on the security of the NICN personnel to enable the President of the court to order the reopening of the Owerri Division.
It also deployed the role of the state police command in the matter, saying that the police lent itself as a willing tool to the State Executive Arm.
Meanwhile, L. M Alozie has denounced the NBA Fact-Finding Committee Report, saying it was contrived to blackmail him.
Speaking with BarristerNG.Com, Alozie said he would react extensively after the NBA leadership which looked into the report makes its position public.