As a result of the the sacking of over 40 staff members by the new Delta State Chief Judge, Justice Marshal Umukoro, a crisis is brewing at the Delta State Judiciary.
The judicial workers were employed by the former Chief Judge of the State, retired Justice Abiodun Smith, to work at the Delta State Multi-Door Courthouse, an independent agency in the State Judiciary that Justice Smith created. The agency was inaugurated by the past administration of former governor Emmanuel Uduaghan with a female lawyer, Mrs. Julia Otulo, as its Director-General.
A senior worker in the Office of the Chief Judge disclosed to SaharaReporters that after barely two weeks in office Justice Marshal Umukoro had removed certain policies, employees and structures built by the retired Chief Judge.
“The action of Justice Umukoro is tantamount to betrayal. Upon resumption of office, Umukoro summoned the DG to his office and ordered her to withdraw the appointment letters of over forty staff of the agency. Umukoro wants to remove every staff employed by Smith and fix his own people into the system so that he can have absolute control of the Multi-Door Courthouse”, the worker explained.
“Umukoro is not happy because of the independent status of the Delta State Multi-Door Courthouse. Umukoro wants to have the multi-door courthouse under his control in order to have access and control of the finances of the multi-door courthouse. Umukoro has not been in a good relationship with Smith even before his swearing-in. This was again played out shortly after his swearing in, after acknowledging everybody, Umukoro ignored his predecessor, Smith, until someone went behind him and tell him to acknowledge his predecessor,” the source added.
Our source analysed Umukoro’s motivations as follows: “Umukoro, is highly tribalistic, he sees his predecessor as a rival. Following Umukoro’s order to the DG, many of the staff have been caught in tense apprehension. I commend the boldness of the DG who told the Chief Justice to his face that she can not withdraw the letters because the appointments were made in accordance with the law establishing the courthouse.”
SaharaReporters learned that the DG’s refusal to withdraw all the employment letters infuriated Umukoro. He then went out of his way to personally terminate the appointments of at least forty workers in the agency.
One of the affected workers who pleaded for anonymity told SaharaReporters that the sacked workers have suffered since their jobs were terminated.
“Since over two weeks now that we were sacked, it has been lamentation and wailing. Worse of all is that the CJ later discreetly, re-engaged few of the staff who are his kinsmen and some others who have connections and were able to reach out to him. I am so devastated by the CJ’s decision to sack us unjustly, after we were employed last April,” he lamented.
“We even underwent two weeks intensive training before resumption of work. Umukoro is power-drunk. He is bent on superimposing his authority on every organ of the state judiciary. He is fighting Smith, his predecessor, by making sure everything that is of Smith is totally wiped away to enable him run the system as he desires,” the worker added.
It was reliably learned that Umukoro’s terminations did not go well with Smith. People saw the former Chief Judge storm Asaba and visit the courthouse in order to sympathize with the staff.
“Smith recently visited here unceremoniously not too long ago, met with the DG and had a chat with some of the affected staff. He even shunned the CJ’s office, and left for Warri immediately. When Umukoro heard about Smith’s visit, he was infuriated.” one worker told our reporter.
It was learned that the affected workers have resolved to stage a peaceful protest to draw the attention of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to their plight. In a visit to the premises of the courthouse, we observed some of the affected and workers milling around the building, which is located beside the State High Court premises, along Okpanam Road, Asaba.