Journalists allege bias, reject judge

Posted by Boniface Okoro, Umuahia | 23 October 2012 | 4,218 times

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A new Judge of the Abia State Judiciary would soon be assigned to handle the suit brought by some members of the Correspondents Chapel against the new leadership of the chapel and the chairman of the Abia State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).

The Presiding Judge, Justice Lilian Abai, made this known when the suit, HU/97/2012 came up for hearing today, indicating that this was sequel to an application brought by the defendants.

But for this twist, Justice Abai would have delivered her ruling on two motions pending before her during today’s sitting. One is a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court brought by the defendants while the second is a motion for joinder brought by Emmanuel Onwuka Acha of the News Agency of Nigeria, the disqualified chairmanship candidates during the May 2, 2012 Correspondents Chapel Election.

After the September 25 sitting of the Court when both motions were filed, the defendants through their Counsel, Chief ACB Agbazuere, applied to the Acting Judge of Abia State for a transfer of the matter to a new judge based on the insistence of Justice Abai that she would hear the two motions together.

The application addressed to the Chief Judge read in part: “when on the 25th of September, 2012, we raised the issue of preliminary objection, the court adjourned to give the claimants enough time as allowed by law, to enable them respond to the preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court but the Judge also said Court was adjourning to the 23rd of October to hear together the preliminary objection as to the jurisdiction of the court and the motion for joinder.

“My Lord, it is the Law that Issues of Jurisdiction are distinct from what happens in their causes and ‘when an issue of jurisdiction is raised, until the iron bar of jurisdiction is crossed, the Court only has jurisdiction to determine whether or not it has jurisdiction over the matter before it.

“My Lord, it is equally the Law that issue of jurisdiction cannot be defeated by rules of court. My Lord, we are quite uncomfortable with the insistence of his Lordship to foist jurisdiction on his court. The Judge has shown the direction of his mind and it is copious we cannot get justice from him.

The defendants, through the application signed by their Counsel, Chief Agbazuere, implored the Chief Judge to transfer the suit to another judge.

In Court today, when the suit was mentioned, Justice Abai said she learnt that the Defence Counsel has applied for a transfer of the suit.

Consequently, she ruled that the suit has been transferred to the Acting Chief Judge for necessary action.

Agbazuere told News Express in an interview after the court session that “it is a trite law that the issue of jurisdiction should be resolved before any other thing.”

The Case was instituted by Messrs Anayo Okoli of the Vanguard newspapers, Obinna Ibe of the Insider magazine and George Opara of National Mirror newspapers.

They are contending that the May 2 Correspondents Chapel election was inconclusive, praying the court to rule that the credentials committee should be allowed to conclude the process.

The Defendants are Messrs Emmanuel Ugwu of Thisday (Chairman), Emeka Okafor of Compass (Secretary), Steve Oko of Champion newspapers, (Financial Secretary), Henrietta Ashikodi of Statesman (Treasurer), Jenarius Ezeru of Announcer Express (Assistant Secretary) and Hyacinth Okoli, Chairman of Abia Council of the NUJ.

In their statement of claims, the defendants insist that the election was conclusive and produced the chairman and secretary listed above.

The defendants stated that the claimants were neither candidates in the said election nor financial members of the union, and, therefore, lacked the locus standi to bring the suit.

The defendants, in their statement of defence, further pleaded their intention to raise a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit for want of locus standi, non-joinder of proper parties and for disclosing no cause of Action or reasonable cause of action. The preliminary objection was filed on September 25

*Photo shows Defence Counsel Agbazuere.

Source: News Express

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