By Julius Eto
A non-governmental pressure group, Isoko Progress Forum (IPF), has decried the exclusion and marginalisation of experienced, qualified and competent judicial officers of the Isoko ethnic nationality in the appointment of judges in the Delta State judicial system.
It expressed this in a petition entitled: “Extreme Marginalisation of Isoko in Appointment of Judges in Delta,” dated October 30, 2021 and addressed to the Chairman, Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in Asaba, the Delta State capital.
It stated: “IPF wishes to draw the attention of the Delta Judicial Service Commission, State Government and others to the brazen exclusion of our ethnic nationality in the recent appointment of judges in the state.
“The exercise was done in flagrant violation of fair play, equity, justice and inclusion against the spirit behind the establishment of the Delta State Judicial Service Commission and the Federal Character Commission.
“The Isoko nationality is a minority tribe like the Ijaw and the Itsekiri, who get fair deals in appointments as other ethnic groups in Delta State.”
Coordinator of IPF, Dr. Goodie Omuyeh and Secretary General, Dr. Prosper Ahworegba, signed the petition, copies of which were sent to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Chairman, National Judicial Service Commission (NJSC), Abuja; Delta State Chief Judge; Speaker, House of Assembly; Chairman, Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), Abuja and President-General, Isoko Development Union (IDU).
IPF stated that the recent nomination and shortlisting of judges left the Isoko short-changed as usual without consideration for oneness, transparency and brotherhood, stressing: “Isoko is being treated as a conquered territory and this can no longer be tolerated.”
The group, therefore, emphasized that it would employ all means to ensure that the Isoko got their due at all costs, including a mass campaign to sensitise the people about their interests and those working against them.
“In the new judges shortlist, Delta Central and North Senatorial zones have four names each. The South Senatorial Zone also has four names, comprising two each for the Itsekiri and Ijaw and none for the Isoko.
“However, before the recent list, serving judges in the state were as follows: Central (14), North (11) and South (6 with the Itsekiri having 3, Ijaw 2 and Isoko 1). What this means is that the Isoko, at the end of the current shortlisting, will be left with just one judge. But other ethnic groups in the three senatorial districts will have additional number of serving judges in the state’s High Court,” it noted.
It underscored the fact that the Isoko have the capacity to meet demands of judicial merit and competence, pointing out that the tribe had produced scholars and intellectual legal giants who could be appointed as judges in the state and anywhere in the world.
“More annoying and provocative is the fact that apart from the Isoko being excluded from nominations and appointments to fill vacancies, we are not even allowed to serve as replacement of retirees who are from Isoko in the judiciary!
“These are calculated attempts and policies-cum-actions to completely deny our oil-producing nationality appointments, deliberately heat up and destabilise the polity through disregard for the sensibilities of the Isoko nation and provocation of our peace-loving and law-abiding people,” the group said.
It further stated that as a pan-Isoko organisation, IPF rejects any “government subjugation of our people and land against the ECOWAS, African and United Nations global principles of morality, ethics, equity and justice, which could trigger or ignite unrest among the Isoko people, who have been pushed against the wall.”
IPF, therefore, requested that the Chief Judge and Chairman of JSC in Delta State should remedy the lopsidedness and hidden agenda, maintaining that the number of Isoko judges should be increased to three to be on a par with other tribes in the South Senatorial Zone before it was too late.