The recent news of the death of our legal icon, Rtd. Justice Chukwudifu Oputa came to me with nostalgia and great feelings of loss. The contributions of the former Supreme Court Judge to the development of law in Imo State and Nigeria can be best appreciated by those in the legal profession. This is because of the kind of judgments, judicial pronouncements and books this former Chief Judge of Imo State banqueted to the Nigerian legal system.
However, there are some news-stories and pictures I saw in some print media recently where the Imo State Government handed over a cheque of =N=20m to the late jurist’s son Charles Oputa a.k.a. Charlie Boy for the burial of his father. Also, news has it that the Governor Rochas Okorocha wants to ‘hijack’ the burial of the late judge and make it an Imo Government affair. It has also been reported that Charlie Boy has warned Governor Okorocha steer clear of his father’s burial stating that his father was an international figure whose fame is beyond Imo State.
Firstly, I take exception to how the Imo State Government went to the press to publish some photographs whereby Justice Oputa’s first son was being handed over a bank cheque of =N=20,000 as Imo State Government’ contributions to the burial. This to me is below the standard the first Chief Judge of the state should be treated. Why making a show out of it? Why snapping Charlie Boy pictures collecting an item termed to be bank cheque and publishing the pictures to the whole world? Is that the best way to honour a state Chief Judge? For me, the action is bereft of acceptable standard for a legal luminary like Oputa who retired at the apex court of the land. However, I know that our late legal icon would have also ruled against this ‘procedure’/attitude if he were still alive.
Justice Oputa was a very sound and upright judge who developed rule of law in Imo State and Nigeria. Most of his judgments, judicial pronouncements and write-ups are locus classicus. He is indeed an epitome of justice and legality.
On the other hand, it is very clear that Governor Okorocha wants to play a pronounced role in the burial of Justice Oputa. Whatever is the reason is best known to him. However, with due respect, it is an irony that a lawless governor like him who does not obey court judgments and rule of law is trying to identify with the burial of a colossus of rule of law and obedience to court orders like Justice Oputa. That is the highest irony of the millennium.
‘He he goes to equity must go with clean hands’. Therefore, it is my wish that before Governor Okorocha goes to Oputa’s burial, he should reverse some of the following illegal actions he has undertaken as the governor of Imo State so as to honour the dead jurist or otherwise, Oputa’s spirit will sentence him to death by hanging.
1. Refusal to re-instate elected local government Councils in the 27 Local Government Area Councils in Imo State as against the Judgment of the Court of Appeal.
2. Use of Sole Administrators to run local government councils in Imo State as against Court of Appeal declaration of Sole Administrators as unconstitutional.
3. Refusal to re-instate sacked members of the Imo State Judicial Service Commission against the judgment of an Owerri High Court.
4. Refusal to obey the Court of Appeal judgment re-instating Eze C. I. Ilomuanya as the Chairman Imo State Council of Ndi-eze.
5. Sack of beneficiaries of the Ten Thousand (10,000) Job Scheme without regard to the Imo State Public/Civil Service Rules.
6. Demolition of people’s houses without due process.
7. Illegal dissolution of House of Assembly Service Commission, Civil Service Commission, Local Government Service Commission, Imo State Independent Electoral Commission (ISIEC), Local Government Development Areas, Judicial Service Commission, Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers and the Imo State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (ISOPADEC).
8. Refusal to pay Severance Allowance and other Entitlements to former political office holders.
6. Illegal proscription of Local Government Development Area Councils.
7. Refusal to formalize and pay for contracts done.
8. Illegal Suspension/Retirement of Permanent Secretaries and public Servants.
9. Illegal Revocation of Plots of Lands allotted to persons without due process.
10. Illegal trespass to Area ‘K’ Land belonging to Amawom-Owerri people when the matter is still in court.
11. Illegal acquisition/revocation and trespass to land belonging to Umuguma and Naze people in Owerri.
12. Illegal Dissolution of Town Unions in all the Autonomous Communities in Imo State as against the provision of the Nigerian Constitution, the Companies and Allied Matters Act and the Imo state laws on town unions.
13. Illegal and unjust impeachment of his former deputy, Sir Jude Agbaso etc.
It is only after the Governor must have returned the above illegal actions and injustices to status quo that he can apply to identify with any thing concerning the Late Justice Oputa; for there is no relationship between light and darkness.
Barr Emperor N. Iwuala