Below is an exclusive interview with Professor Justice Umeadi, Former Chief Justice of Anambra State and APGA Presidential Aspirant
LAW PERSONALITY INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
What was your greatest challenge at the Bench as a Chief Judge, how did you overcome that?
As a Chief Judge my greatest challenge was how to maintain the independence of the Judiciary. The concept of separation of powers is irritating to the political class, which is accentuated from our years of military rule. In America, the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary are referred to as co-equal arms of government. In Nigeria it is anathema to suggest such. I have said it publicly and may repeat here without fear of contradiction, that at no time under the tenure of the (2) two Governors when I served as Chief Judge did I receive any interference with regard to the decision of cases before the Courts. Anambra State Judiciary may not have been the best looked after but we had a reasonable life line to operate as an arm of government. However, there were very many State Judiciaries who were much below the water mark. It is said that injustice for one translate to injustice to all. It was difficult to erase the feeling of those in the Executive arm of government that the Judiciary is not an appendage of the Ministry of Justice. Any attempt to correct this was likened to trying to create an empire from the state bloc and was met with umbrage and blackmail. In the end the dislike against the Judiciary and her staff was pervasive in the public service and gave rise to constant denials. There is the story from a biography where a Chief Judge met with a Military Administrator of a State in the western part of Nigeria to discuss the list of names penciled to be made Judges. The Military Administrator was quiet as the Chief Judge described a candidate as a good lawyer, dedicated, honest and humble. The last word rocked the boat! The Military Administrator thundered, “that is how they all are until you make them a Judge and they turn into a tin god” The public servant who fashion government policies and even legal practitioners find it difficult to come to terms with the metamorphosis of a person who has been made a Judge. The judicial responsibility of a Judge is not to be shared with any. Moreover, the administrative needs of a judge is peculiar. A judge would require at the minimum, two clerks of court, one Secretary typist, one messenger, one Police orderly, and a driver. If you add those who should assist at his residence the list grows. The career civil servants who advise the government find it difficult to accommodate these basic needs of the Judiciary. It would be different if we understand and embrace separation of powers. I do not know whether I met the challenge of asserting the independence of the Judiciary while in office but I gave it my best shot. It is challenge we have to confront collectively for the smooth running of that critical arm of government.