Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa has said that the Judiciary has to continue to find ways to deliver justice in a timely, transparent and equitable manner.
The Governor in his address at a Special Thanksgiving Mass to mark the beginning of the new legal year 2020/2021 held at the Emmanuel the Saviour Catholic Church, Asaba, on Monday, said that timely delivery of justice is vital to the health of the justice system and how it is perceived by the public, from which it derives its ultimate authority.
According to the Governor who was represented by the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, “As you prepare to enter the new year, what is clear is that the judiciary has to continue to find ways to deliver justice in a timely, transparent, and equitable manner. Hence, as I said three years ago, “it behoves you men of the bench, wig and silk to, as a matter of exigency, interrogate the use of interlocutory injunctions and the requests for adjournments so that they do not obstruct or delay the course of justice.” It may sound trite but the reason we have to keep saying this is because it is so vital to the health of the justice system and how it is perceived by the public, from which it derives its ultimate authority”.
“On our part, we have continued to do the needful to consolidate on the achievements of this and previous administrations to put the judiciary on a sound footing that will enable it function optimally and without any encumbrance. In the course of the 2019/2020 legal year, we appointed five new high court judges and three customary area court judges. We recognise the need to fill vacancies as quickly as possible so that the cause of justice is not hindered through inadequate manpower. It underscores this administration’s resolve to build capacity in the judiciary, enhance the process of justice delivery, and provide a conducive working environment for our judges/support staff”, the Governor who had earlier taken the first reading from the Book of Isaiah 32: 15-18, said.
He stated that some mischief makers whose stock-in-trade is to cause confusion and fan the embers of disunity, had wrongly accused the government of not appointing judges to man the various judicial divisions in the State, saying that; “It is important that people get themselves properly informed so that they don’t mislead the public and heat up the polity unnecessarily”.
High Court Judges, according to him are appointed by the State Government as stipulated in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, but made it clear that appointment of Judges in the States is at the instance of the National Judicial Council.
“Unless the Council recommends the appointment of Judges, the State Governor cannot do otherwise. The Delta State Government would have loved to appoint more Judges to man all its Judicial Divisions but it cannot do so unless the National Judicial Council makes such recommendation”, he said.
Nevertheless, he said, his administration has continued to give the judiciary the necessary support it requires to deliver on its core functions, revealing that; “Since inception, the administration has embarked on a massive renovation of its Courts and Judges Quarters in order to bring them to modern standard. In 2019/2020 Legal Year, the renovation of Judge’s Quarters in Oleh was completed and is already in use. In addition, contracts were awarded for the construction of Magistrate’s Court, Onicha-Ugbo; Magistrate’s Court, Uwheru; Renovation of Magistrate’s Court Building, Sapele, Renovation and restructuring of High Court 1 and 2, Sapele and Renovation of borehole Water Supply Scheme for Judges Quarters, Koko.
The Governor disclosed that in the 2020/2021 Legal Year, the Delta State Government has completed the Construction of a Gate House, Generator House, reconstruction of perimeter fence, and landscaping of Judge’s Quarters in Sapele, adding that the contracts had also been awarded for additional renovation works at Judge’s Quarters, Ughelli, renovation of High Court Building, Oghara, and renovation of High Court Building, Orerokpe.
“As many of you here may be aware, we have already awarded the contract for the renovation and construction of the new High Court Complex that was torched during the EndSARs protests. This and other projects will continue to receive priority attention from this administration. I assure you that this administration is determined to build a judiciary that we can all be proud of”, he said.
The Governor added; “Beyond the solidarity of today’s event, the opening of the New Legal Year is also an appropriate time for the legal community to take stock of the previous year and use the lessons thereof to chart the course for the new year. As with many other sectors of the economy, the judiciary had to adjust to new ways of doing business in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic. I imagine that this will continue to be the case until, hopefully, in a few months, the virus is finally contained”.
“On behalf of the Government and good people of Delta State, I congratulate the new SANs. After the unfortunate torching of the High Court Complex on Ibusa Road, Asaba, following the EndSARs protest, the news of their decoration certainly gives us something to cheer. I trust that the new SANs will keep striving for excellence in their legal practice and in the discharge of their judicial functions to enhance the cause of jurisprudence in Nigeria”, the Governor said.
The Governor who said that the new legal year was commencing against the backdrop of the induction of seven Deltans, including the State’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, as Senior Advocates of Nigeria, recalled that three years ago when he addressed the gathering, two Sons of the State had just been made SANs and said; “With the additional number of seven SANs from Delta, it goes without saying that our lawyers and judges have continued to do us proud”.