Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State today swore in Justice Peter Nwoke Chukwuma Agumagu as the state’s new Chief Judge. The event took place in Government House, Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State.
The swearing in ceremony took place after a Federal High Court dismissed a case seeking to bar Justice Agumagu’s appointment. Numerous interested parties in the state had attempted to prevent the governor from nominating Justice Agumagu as the chief judge. The new CJ had previously served as the President of the Rivers State Customary Court of Appeal.
At the ceremony, Governor Amaechi alluded to the series of legal disputes, but called on the new Chief Judge not to let the acrimony becloud his judicial decisions. The governor enjoined the state’s top judge to endeavor to be fair to all litigants.
Speaking further, Mr. Amaechi stated that he was “a bit worried with the way people in the judiciary fought over who would be the Chief Judge of the State.” He added that he was disturbed by efforts from some quarters to strip him, as state governor, of the prerogative of nominating a Chief Judge.
He expressed gratitude to the Federal High Court in Rivers for ensuring that justice was done. He then told Justice Agumagu not to view the opposition to his appointment as unusual, reminding him that appointments into every major office in Nigeria, including that of bishops, is often marked by tussles.
In a veiled reference to Abuja-based politicians from the state suspected to have masterminded the legal battle against the new CJ, Governor Amaechi said, “I would on behalf of Rivers State thank the Federal High Court for helping us out of this bondage. I would say to the Federal High Court that our brothers who [have the] privilege of their position in high office should not abuse their office again.” He stated that appointments should be based on merit instead of cronyism, adding that he would like to see an end to political interference in matters of judicial appointments.
On his part, Justice Agumagu told reporters that he would focus on rendering justice, adding that he would work towards a reinvigorated judiciary. He also pledged to ensure that workers in the judicial sector have improved conditions.