R-L President, Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mense; Justice Mary Odili, Justice of the Supreme Court; Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, Rivers State Deputy Governor Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo at the inauguration of Court of Appeal Justices Residences and Staff Quarters built by the Rivers State Government.

By Okafor Ofiebor

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad on Thursday said Nigeria will suffer grave effect if judicial officers are consistently deprived of requisite infrastructure.

Muhammad made the remark at the commissioning of 20 four bedroom duplexes built for Judges of Rivers origin serving both at the State and Federal Judiciaries at the Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma Judges Quarters in Port Harcourt.

The CJN, 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.

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 of providing befitting accommodation for all judicial officers of Rivers State origin beyond their service years for life.

“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 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 N3.6 billion 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 had 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 fulfillment of promises made by 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.