The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad says Nigeria will suffer grave effect if judicial officers are consistently deprived of requisite infrastructure.
A statement by Paulinus Nsirim, Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, disclosed that Justice Muhammad made the remark at the commissioning of 20 four bedroom duplexes built for Judges of Rivers origin serving both in the State and Federal Judiciaries at the Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma Judges Quarters in Port Harcourt on Thursday, September 3, 2020.
Justice Muhammad who was represented by Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court noted that Judges would be more confident to dispense justice if they have good shelter and welfare.
“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 Governor Wike’s huge investment to improve infrastructure of federal courts. You are today also giving to Judges a life long accommodation on owner- occupier basis, ” he said.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike said 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 consideration for the unprecedented investment we have made in our judicial system.
“I cannot think of any State Government with similar welfare scheme we have made. 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 stated.
Governor Wike said the gesture of the State Government would end the era when judges retire and have 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 now bears the full responsibility to providing befitting accommodation for all judicial officers of Rivers State origin beyond their service years for life.
“The State Government spent the sum of N6billion 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 alone.
“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. 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 noted that the facility would enable judicial officers to do their work well.
Justice Dongban-Mensem also said that good facilities would make Judges not to be afraid but 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 State, Justice Adama Iyayi-Lamikanra expressed the delight of Judges to witness another practical fulfilment of promises made by Governor Wike.
She noted 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 state, Justice Kate Abiri said Judges work under very challenging situations but what they have received from the Wike administration would assuage it because they can concentrate to do better.
Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor said by the gesture, the Wike administration has enthroned a virile and independent justice system that would enable judges to work uprightly.
National President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Olumide Akpata said when judges are provided with comfortable living houses and good welfare, they would perform better.
Speaking for the Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN, Chief Onueze Okocha noted the foresightedness of the Governor in achieving the feat.
President of the Port Harcourt Branch of NBA, Prince Nyekwere said the support of Governor Wike to the judiciary would remain unrivaled.
Rivers State Commissioner for Housing, Elder Chinedu Tasie Nwabueze said the project was conceived and executed by Governor Wike for Judges who would take possession of their houses immediately.