By Dianabasi Effiong
Port Harcourt, Sept. 3, 2020 The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, says Nigeria will suffer “grave consequences” if judicial officers are consistently deprived of requisite infrastructure.
Muhammad made the remark on Friday in Port Harcourt at a ceremony to inaugurate 20 duplexes built for Judges of Rivers origin serving both in the State and Fedeal Judiciary.
Represented by Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court, he noted that Judges would be more confident to dispense justice if they had good shelter.
“Lagos and Rivers States rank among the most litigious States. The implication is that manpower and materials are perennially stretched far beyond limit to attend to the large number of cases filed daily.
“That explains the enormity of work before Judges. A good car, shelter and good welfare package are some of those things that can serve as magic wand to bring out the best from them.
“Whenever we deliberately or inadvertently toil with the welfare of judicial officers, we are unconsciously inflicting a debilitating wound on the conscience of the nations.
“We are not ignorant of Gov Nyesom Wike’s huge investment toward improving infrastructure in federal courts. Today, he is giving to Judges a lifelong accommodation on owner-occupier basis. This is good,” he said.
In his remarks, Wike said that the judiciary would be on a pedestal of efficiency and productivity with the support given to it by his administration.
“There is need to guarantee judicial independence and secure effective administration of justice.
“These are the overriding considerations for the unprecedented investment we have made in our judicial system.
“I cannot think of any state government with a similar welfare scheme. This will have profound and positive impact on judicial officers.
“We have moved our Judiciary from the valley of neglect to an enviable hilltop of independence, capacity and effectiveness,” he said.
The governor said that the gesture of Rivers Government would end the era when judges retired and had no shelter.
“Given the constitutional restriction on legal practice, post legal service years could be miserable for judges who were unable to buy or build their own homes before leaving the service.
“With our policy, the state bears the full responsibility of providing befitting accommodation for all judicial officers of Rivers State origin beyond their service years.
“The state government spent the sum of N6 billion to build, furnish and landscape this estate.
“The government also reserves the interest to buy back any flat and reallocate to other judges to preserve the exclusivity of the estate for judicial officers.
“Twenty-three Judges opted for cash payment and have been given the approved sum of N150 million each, to build and have their own houses.
“Cumulatively, the state government disbursed the sum of N3.6billion to the beneficiaries.
“The policy covers all former Chief Judges, Presidents of Customary Courts of Appeal, including Justice Peter Agumagu. We also captured all retired Judges, who were in service when the policy was made.
“The current Chief Judge of the state will have her accommodation built for her before retirement in May, 2021,” he stated.
In her remarks, the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, said that the facility would enable judicial officers to do their work well.
Justice Dongban-Mensem also said that good facilities would make Judges to courageously dispense justice without fear or favour.
According to her, what the Wike administration has done should serve as a template for other state governments to emulate to make the working condition of Judges better.
Chief Judge of Rivers, Justice Adama Iyayi-Lamikanra, in a remark, expressed her delight at the fact that Judges were witnessing another practical fulfillment of promises made by Wike.
She said that Judges, who live in such tastefully furnished houses, would be motivated to put in their best in the delivery of justice.
Chief Judge of Bayelsa, Justice Kate Abiri, said that Judges work under very challenging situations, but expressed gratitude to Wike over efforts to make them comfortable.
“What we have received from the Wike administration will make Judges concentrate and do better,” she said.
Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor, Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Rivers, said that by the gesture, the Wike administration had enthroned a virile and independent justice system that would enable judges to work uprightly.
In a remark, the National President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Olumide Akpata, said that Judges would perform better when they are provided with comfortable living houses and good welfare.