The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Warri branch has called on the Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa to immediately provide the official vehicles required for the appointment of the already screened and cleared persons as judges of the state judiciary.
Rising from its monthly general meeting held on January 29, 2023, the NBA Warri branch which called on Governor Okowa to also address issues affecting the judiciary in the state noted the recent approval of the appointments of nine additional judges for the Federal High Court and eighty-six others for various state High Courts across the country by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The Association in a press release on the outcome of the general meeting dated Wednesday, February 1, 2023, and signed by the branch Chairman, Chief Oghenero Okoro and the Secretary, S.G. Ediagbonuvie, said, “Unfortunately, our dear State Delta, is not one of the states for which the National Judicial Council appointed judges. This is despite the fact that we have very acute shortage of judges in the Delta State High Court and the fact that recently, the National Judicial Council screened and cleared five persons for appointment as judges of the High Court of Delta State.
“Investigation by the Branch reveals that the reason the five screened and cleared persons were not appointed among the 86 others from other states is that the Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa failed, refused and/or neglected to make available the official vehicles of the Judges to be appointed which is a sina qua non for the said appointment and thus, truncated the appointment. In other words, the appointment of Judges for Delta State this time around was frustrated and truncated by the act of Governor Okowa’s failure, refusal and/or neglect to make available the official vehicles necessary for this appointment which is very sad.
“This incident is even more painful considering the acute shortage of Judges in Delta State. Presently, many of the High Courts in the state have no presiding Judges resulting in the few Judges we have being perpetually overstretched.
“Some Judges cover two divisions far from each other, driving to and fro daily. Apart from the Asaba Division, the other Divisions in the State have no residential quarters for Judges and our Judges are made to commute daily from wherever they have their private residences to the Divisions where they are serving which in most cases, are more than one; again, this is very gruelling for them and impacts very negatively on their health and general wellbeing. This shortage of Judges also impacts on Legal Practitioners and Litigants who have to suffer long adjournments with their cases taking longer than necessary to conclude as many of these Courts do not sit daily as our Judges have to shuffle from one Division to another to preside.
“As a matter of fact, the need to have more Judges appointed in our state is now an emergency and for Governor Okowa to fail to do the needful when we have the opportunity of having some Judges appointed this time, is not only a gross dereliction of his duty but an exhibition of the continued shabby treatment and disregard of the Judiciary as an arm of government in Delta State by the successive Government in the State. It is on record and as a Bar, we have continuously drawn the attention of the state government to the very poor and parlous state of judicial infrastructures in the state. Our courts are decrepit, ragged, unkempt and very embarrassing. When you see the state of court buildings in our neighbouring states of Edo, Bayelsa and Anambra, you will be ashamed to be a Deltan and this is despite the fact that our state earns much more higher than these neighbouring states from the federal allocations and 13% derivation. This is also in the face of the recent gale of huge borrowings by the Okowa government reportedly for infrastructural development.
“The Warri High Court building that the state government deliberately demolished since 2008 under the guise of constructing a more benefitting one has remained a hubris of debris despite repeated agitations by our Branch. As a result, the Warri High Court has been made to squat in makeshift buildings not befitting of a Magistrate Court.
“It is very painful that the Delta State government is shameless and disgraceful over the state of her judicial infrastructure. Most of our Courts have no power generating plants and judges sit in small, crowded and stuffy court halls with many of our Judges carrying hand fans when there is no power supply from the electricity distribution company.
“Our Judge’s official vehicles are arguably the worst in the entire country. While local government chairmen, members of the House of Assembly, Commissioners and political aides of the governor who are in droves and thousands cruise around in the latest Toyota Land Cruisers and Prado Jeeps, our Judges are condemned to Kia Mohaha and Hyundai Tuscon which are not even replaced, even when their state, as well as their ages and functionality, becomes embarrassing to the status of a Judge. We will not even talk about their squalid Chambers which they are forced to furnish at their personal cost to make it manageable. We also will not talk about the case of the Magistrates in Delta State. Their case is simply pitiable.
“Thus, we hereby call on Governor Okowa to, as a matter of urgency, not tomorrow or the day after tomorrow but today, make available the said official vehicles to the National Judicial Council so that the persons already screened and cleared by the National Judicial Council are immediately appointed and sworn in so as to reduce the pains and sufferings of Legal Practitioners and Litigants while making preparation for another round of appointment soonest.
“We equally hope that whoever will take over from governor Okowa will take radical and surgical steps to revamp the decrepit judicial infrastructures in the state. We cannot continue like this.”