Law News
Rivers Judiciary Crisis: Supreme Court Dismisses Agumagu’s Appeals
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 Suspended Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice P.N.C. Agumagu

Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

The Supreme Court has dismissed three appeals filed by the suspended Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice P.N.C. Agumagu.
He was suspended by the National Judicial Council  (NJC)   after he was sworn in as the Chief Judge of Rivers State by Governor Rotimi Amaechi.

The council said it did not recommend him to Amaechi for appointment as the Chief Judge.

Agumagu was however dissatisfied with his suspension. He consequently filed an application for a judicial review of the NJC’s directive suspending him.

In the appeal, Agumagu said the Court of Appeal was wrong in its interpretation of the provisions of the Court of Appeal Practice Direction of 2013.

In dismissing the appeal, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour said: “We have examined this and the other grounds of appeal and are satisfied that the issues in the appeal are matters that can be brought to this court when the appeals are concluded.

“Accordingly, application for a stay of proceedings of the pending appeals in the Court of Appeal is hereby struck out. Notice of appeal to this court is also struck out.”

The apex court dismissed the three appeals on the grounds that the appeals were premature.

Agumagu, in the appeals, also challenged the refusal of the Court of Appeal to strike out the records of proceedings compiled by the NJC.
Agumagu’s counsel, Chief Akinlolu Olujinmi (SAN) had said that the NJC was wrong to have compiled the records of appeal within 14 days instead of the 60 days stipulated by the law.

The council’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) however opposed the appeal, saying that Olujinmi should have waited for the Court of Appeal to decide the substantive appeal. The Supreme Court agreed with him.

Olujinmi had applied to the Supreme Court for an order to compel the Court of Appeal to stay proceedings in the appeal which was filed by the NJC challenging the refusal of the trial judge, Adeniyi Ademola, to hear the council’s objection seeking to dismiss the case filed by Agumagu wherein he challenged his suspension by the council.

Justice Ademola had elected to hear the case filed by Agumagu together with the objections raised by the defendants, (the NJC and three others.)

The NJC was dissatisfied with the trial judge’s ruling and immediately appealed to the Court of Appeal.

It compiled the records within 14 days to enable the appeal court hear the case on time.

However, Agumagu’s counsel,  Olujinmi objected, saying that the compilation of the records did not follow due process. He argued that the law stipulated 60 days for the record to be compiled and that leave of court ought to be obtained.

He further argued that the court of appeal had no jurisdiction to hear the appeal if the records of appeal were not properly complied.

However his application to have the record struck out was refused by the Court of Appeal.

He immediately appealed to the Supreme Court and asked the apex Court to strike out the records.

In a ruling delivered by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and ordered all the parties back to the Court of Appeal for hearing of the main appeal.

The Court said that Olujinmi should have appreciated the fact that the records were completed earlier than the period stipulated by the law.

The court ordered theCourt of Appeal to hear the appeal with dispatch. It said that anyone aggrieved by the judgment of the Court of Appeal could then file an appeal.

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