*As Gov Fayemi flags-off magistrates court complex in Port Harcourt
Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has explained that no arm of government and sector in the State has been treated poorly in terms of allocation of funds and distribution of infrastructure.
The governor made the explanation at the flag-off of construction work on the Magistrates Court Complex that was performed by the Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi on Thursday in Port Harcourt.
Responding to an allusion made by one of the speakers at the event who cited a question that a friend asked him about so much attention paid to the judiciary, Governor Wike said, that person must be a mischief maker.
Governor Wike said so much money has been spent in the health sector, which cannot be compared to what has been spent in the judiciary.
He said this is the last project his administration will be executing for the judiciary before his tenure ends and assured that it will be completed within the next eight months.
Other projects that are already ongoing, he said, include the State judiciary institute, the Federal Judicial Service Commission for the South-South, allocated to Rivers State.
The governor however, took a swipe at the state judiciary about the lack of space and courtrooms in the High Court premises that make magistrates and judges share courtrooms.
Governor Wike queried what they have been doing with their capital budget released to them in the last six and half years.
According to him, they cannot receive such money and still wait for the execution to provide offices for them, effect repairs on existing offices and also make the air conditioning in the courtrooms functional.
“Let me say something I find very disturbing because it is self-indictment. You said that people sit in the morning, people sit in the afternoon because of no space.
“The question now becomes what has the judiciary been doing with their capital budget. Because I’m surprised. All these (projects) that have been done are done by the executive. We release your capital budget as at when due.
“Again, why do you recommend the appointment of new magistrates when you know there is no court for them. Why? As I speak today, we are not owing the judiciary any dime.”
Governor Wike stated that when the new magistrate court complex will be completed, it will be fitted with all modern facilities and will help decongest the State High Court.
Performing the flag-off, Governor Fayemi commended Governor Wike for the transformational work, not just in the judiciary alone, but in every sector in the State.
Governor Fayemi observed that what is happening to the magistracy in Rivers State and the on-going construction of campus of Nigerian Law School in Port Harcourt are also worthy of commendation.
According to him, even if he is not a lawyer, he is educated enough to know the importance of this arm of government and particularly the importance of the magistracy to the administration of justice in the country and what Governor Wike has done is going to make a fundamental difference.
“From the statistics I’ve seen, 70 percent of matters relating to criminal justice administration are handled at the magistracy. And that contributes immensely to addressing our long-standing problem of awaiting trial detainees in our prisons.
“So, if we provide a conducive environment for our magistrates to function, it goes without saying that they would deliver their responsibilities a lot more swiftly, and also cover a lot more grounds in order to address that challenge.”
Governor Fayemi said issues raised about the judiciary by Governor Wike are serious and said it is the aspiration of the federating States in the country to have a truly independent judiciary.
“What we look forward to as states, is that we would also have state courts that are not just autonomous but that are wholly driven from the state, not ones driven from the national judicial council, that is the vision of the state and that is what we look forward to.”
On his part, the Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Simeon Amadi said the construction of the magistrate courts complex has come at an auspicious time.
According to him, it will decongest the State High Court complex where the magistrate court is currently being housed.
In his address, the Rivers State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor said the stability, peace and order of any society depends largely on the administration of justice.
The magistrates Courts, he noted, are the component of the court system that discharges crucial responsibility in upholding the sanctity of the law, particularly the criminal law and the magistrate courts handles over 70 percent of criminal cases which make the project also important.
Speaking for the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Okey Wali, SAN, stated that governor Wike has the hindsight of understanding the peculiar problems of the judiciary and is deliberately addressing them in order to also strengthen democracy.