Sustaining Judicial Reforms In Rivers


Respite came the way of the judiciary and indeed the
litigating public when the Rivers State Gover
nor, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike appointed a new Ag. Chief Judge of Rivers State in accordance with laid down rules of that sector of government.
It was indeed a thing of double celebration as the immediate past Chief Judge, Justice Daisy Okocha retired meritoriously and another woman, Justice Adama Iye Iyayi-Lamikanra was sworn-in without any dissenting voice.
The change in leadership in the judiciary is usually peaceful and fulfilling as it is almost pre-ordained. For the first time that peace was broken when the immediate past government in Rivers State introduced a strange logic that was ably contested.
It was now a piece of negative record that the government insisted and so much happened. Apart from the legal tussles, over the matter, for the first time courts were bombed in Ahoada, Degema, and Port Harcourt. Ultimately, courts did not operate anywhere in Rivers State for one year.
The consequences of those developments cannot be forgotten in a hurry. Like the judiciary, the legislature also packed up, while the executive pretended to govern a highly emasculated people. For all that to change the very day Governor Wike took office is divine.
The Tide thinks that Rivers people owe Governor Wike a debt of gratitude for taking his intervention to the next level by returning to the rules in his appointment of the new Chief Judge of Rivers State and thereby returning order to the State and diligence to the judiciary.
We think that the immediate past Chief Judge also deserves commendation for not letting the man in her to die when the corruption of a higher office attempted to steal her due. Not only did she fight like one who knows and likes justice, she prevailed.
When the present government restored her rights, she left no one in doubt that her appointment was not an accident. Her star shone even brighter as she took judicial reforms in Rivers State to another level. Though the journey to her short stay in office was turbulent, she left when the ovation was loudest.
As we congratulate Justice Iyayi-Lamikanra on her well deserved appointment, we cannot fail to note that her appointment was the test the present government needed to show class, character and commitment to the rule of law. Any other government could have asked questions and done the wrong. Indeed, her origin, political stand or gender, especially after another woman could have been issues, but not now.
According to the popular saying; “To whom much is given, much is expected;” Justice Iyayi-Lamikanra must take the charge of the Governor during her inauguration very seriously and advance the cause of judicial reforms in Rivers State. She must also bring the feminine grace that produces excellence in public service.
With the putting to rest the leadership crisis in the Rivers State judiciary, she must galvanise all sections of the judiciary to the prescribed ways of doing things and returning all the time-tested virtues of the discipline. The judiciary must once again become the last hope of the ordinary man, at least in Rivers State.
The judiciary must return to the plan that sought to introduce the use of verbatim recorders in the High Courts. This is important to reduce litigation time and reduce the pressure on judges who take proceedings by longhand. The time has also come to fine-tune the pre-trial process as well as the opportunity for alternative dispute resolution.
We expect the new Chief Judge to manage men and materials in ways that will bring joy to the hearts of judiciary workers. No longer should they be tempted to go on strike or find excuses for laziness and corruption.
The Chief Judge must enforce the directive of the Chief Justice of Nigeria that had to do with hearing both sides before issuing interlocutory injunctions. In the same manner, ways must be found to cut litigation time, reduce adjournment time and eliminate delayed judgement.
Indeed, the number of expectations can be endless. But the new Chief Judge must ensure that the course of justice is served in Rivers State and the confidence of the people on the judiciary is restored.