Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, on Wednesday November 23 declared open 2022/2023 legal year of the state judiciary.
Governor Wike delivering an address at the Ceremonial Court, Rivers State Judiciary Complex said: “As a third arm of government, you play a greater role in advancing the rule of law. Every sane society needs an independent and functional judiciary to advance”.
He said that he had appointed an acting Chief Judge when he became governor of the state saying the judiciary was in a crisis as the courts were locked.
Governor Wike said: “During the crisis we also inherited a judiciary neglected … with inadequate courthouses and unpaid salary arrears. Our first task was to revive the judiciary and ensure a speedy administration of justice”.
He said he rehabilitated existing courthouses and built new ones with accommodation for retired judges.
He said that the government is currently building a model magistrate court which is opposite the State Police Command.
Governor Wike said his government had intervened where there was need to intervene and had provided conducive working environment for those serving the state.
Speaking earlier, Chief Judge of the state, Justice Simeon Chibuzor Amadi, said that the state judiciary had embarked on infrastructural and human capital development and improved justice delivery.
Justice Amadi said: “I must place on record that we owe our modest achievements so far to His Excellency’s release of funds to the Rivers State Judiciary to meet our constitutional duties”.
He listed achievements of the state multi-door courthouse but said the major challenge facing the multi-door courthouse is that people don’t understand the advantages of coming to the multi-door courthouse for settlement of dispute.
The Chief Judge said some inmates were released from the Port-Harcourt Correctional Centre.
He commented on the good working relationship between the police and the state judiciary.
On his part, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor, appealed to members of the legal profession to defend the integrity and authority of the court saying it’s important to the court to protect civil liberties and preserve peace and order.
Prof. Adangor said: “Unguarded and generalized denigration of judicial officers including Justice of the Supreme Court by members of the Bar including some of its leaders is unhealthy and dangerous to the sustainability of our fledgling constitutional democracy”.
He expressed gratitude to Governor Nyesom Wike for his appointment as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice and also expressed appreciation for the support the Ministry of Justice has received from him.
Speaking on behalf of Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Rivers State Branch, the Chairman, Chief OCJ Okocha (SAN), said that states should be allowed to determine the number of judges they need to deal with the issue of decongestion of cases.
Chief Okocha (SAN) said: “On the still raging issue of decongestion of cases before the courts and quickening the pace of justice, one of my abiding suggestions has been that more men and women should be put to the job. The more judges and magistrates we have, the more judges and magistrates there would be to hear and dispose of pending cases before the courts.
“At the time when I had the privilege to serve as a member of the National Judicial Council (NJC), I always advocated that states should be allowed to determine the number of judges and magistrates that they require, not for the NJC to dictate for the states how many judges they need such that some states which have very few cases before their High Courts and in their dockets will be told to go ahead and appoint as many as they can while those states like Lagos, Rivers and Delta whose dockets – indeed the cause list of one High Court judge in Rivers State is more than the cause list of the entire judiciary in one or two other states that I know of. They should allow Rivers and Lagos and Delta States to operate without these restrictions”.
He commended Governor Wike for properly funding the judiciary.
Speaking at the event, Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Port- Harcourt Branch, Victor Benebo, Esq, thanked Governor Wike for everything he had done for the judiciary and for the peaceful relationship between the executive and the judiciary.