One past judgement delivered by the acting chief judge of Enugu State, Justice Ngozi Emehelu, seems to soil her qualification to head the state’s judiciary: she gave a ruling that eight legislators out of 24 members of the Enugu State House of Assembly were greater in number than the 16 other members of the House.
In its judgement, the Court of Appeal presided over by Justice Eugene Chukwuemeka Ubaezunu with justices Ignatius Chukwudi Pats-Acholonu (who read the lead judgement) and Justice Bata Ogunbiyi as members criticised Justice Emehelu for hearing and giving judgement in a matter that was not justiciable.

The case number CA/E/124M/2002 had the appellants as Charles Ogbonnia Asogwa, Uchenna Ekete, Chijioke Aroh, Foster Agu, Fraeben Agwu, Uchenna Anya, Jonathan Chukwuma, Callistus Nnamanni and Kenneth Ogbozor.

Others are Oguejiofor Ndu, Uche Anya, Linus Ali, Ethelbert Obayi, Uche Nomeh, C.C. Orji Okpara, Nwabueze Ugwu, Hyacinth Nsude and the attorney-general of Enugu State while the defendants included Abel Chukwu and Kingsley Ebenyi.

According to the Nigerian Weekly Law Report of March 24, 2003, the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division, blamed Justice Emehelu for giving the judgement in the matter which was not justiciable, saying “it is not part of the duty of the court to forage into areas that ought to vest either directly or impliedly in the legislature”.

According to Justice Pats-Acholonu who read the lead judgement: “The justiciablility of the action involving the removal of the speaker can only arise if the constitutional requirements are not met. In the case before us, the respondents said that 16 members voted but that one of them was then on suspension. If the 15th defendant voted, then the necessary interference was that he was recalled; that is, his suspension was lifted or how else would he know of the decision to remove the speaker…

“By the provisions of sections 102 and 102 of the Constitution … there is the power given to the House of Assembly to regulate its own procedure. They can also act, regardless of any vacancy in the membership or wrongful participation of members which would not affect the legality of the proceedings or vitiate same…

“I believe that it is no business of the court to try and dig out whether any member of the house should or ought not to have voted. This issue of suspension is a matter which undoubtedly comes within the purely internal affair of the Assembly. Had it been that less than 2/3 of all the members of the House had voted then, the court’s power of review of the act of the House would be called into question… The facts of the matter as elicited from the pleadings of the plaintiffs/respondents and the application of Section 101-102 do not appear to me to be a case which is justiciable… This case before us is a matter which …the parties could have striven to avail themselves of the best advice of outside help to resolve…

“I cannot complete this judgement without referring to the dissenting judgement of Justice Franfurter in the case of West Virginia State Board of Education Versus Barnette (1943) 319 US 63 Supreme Court 1178; 87 L. Ed 1628, stating that ‘The court has no reason for existence if it merely reflects the pressures of the day…’ As appeal from legislation to adjudication becomes more frequent, and its consequences more far-reaching, judicial self- restraint becomes more and not less important, lest we unwarrantably enter social and political domains wholly outside our concern.”


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