From AHAM OGADI in Owerri•
The hopes of the new Imo State Deputy Governor designate, Callistus Ekenze, was on Tuesday dashed as the Chief Judge, Justice Pascal Nnadi, declined to administer the oath of office on him.
Mr. Ekenze, his supporters, guests, government functionaries, including Governor Rochas Okorocha had stormed the Sam Mbakwe Exco chambers, inside the Government House, venue of the swearing in, but the programme was forced to a halt.
After waiting for four hours, the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Militus Nlemadim (SAN) appeared with the shattering news that the Chief Judge would not attend because of an early morning injunction granted by a State High Court.
The shocked Attorney General told the audience that the there was a court order made by an Owerri High Court that morning stopping the swearing in of the new Deputy Governor.
A source said the State Chief Judge had been put on notice, thereby halting any swearing in as scheduled.
The source explained that the Chief Judge was advised to respect the sanctity of the court pronouncement by refusing to conduct the swearing in of Mr. Ekenze while the court order persists.
Meanwhile, the source said Justice Pascal Nnadi has directed that the state government should ensure the order is vacated else there will be no swearing in as envisaged.
The State Attorney General on his part has assured that the court order would be vacated by tomorrow, adding that the swearing in would hold immediately, even as he told the guests not to despair at the hitch.
The impeached Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere, had secured the court order stopping the swearing in exercise, wherein he is contesting his impeachment despite a court order stopping further impeachment moves against him on Monday.
Madumere was impeached barely hours after he secured a court order halting any action relating to the impeachment.
The legislators at the Imo State House of Assembly had immediately announced Mr Callistus Ekenze as the new Deputy Governor designate.
Until the announcement, Ekenze was the Head of Service for Imo State, and functioned in that capacity as at last week.
Meanwhile, Governor Okorocha has explained that the swearing in ceremony “could not take place again following the … Interim Court Order restraining the Chief Judge of the State from carrying out the exercise”. He said the order “be fully obeyed”.
In a press release by Sam Onwuemeodo, Governor Okorocha’s Chief Press Secretary, the Governor said that “the interim order be obeyed not minding some issues raised by senior lawyers in the government against the order, insisting that his administration must continue to obey valid court orders and also served on the government or agents of the government”.
Okorocha also urged the people and all the parties in the matter to remain law-abiding and allow the law to take its course.