On Friday, 2nd February, 2018, Rivers State Ministry of Justice organised a one day capacity building training for law officers. The training programme which was the first in the series, according to the Solicitor-General of the State and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mrs Florence Fiberesima, would henceforth hold monthly.
The Permanent Secretary said that the training programme was targeted at making the officers more effective and productive, even as it would help to sharpen their understanding of the modus operandi of the State government.
Giving a lecture at the training, the Head of State Civil Service, Rufus N Godwins, encouraged law officers to break new grounds by engaging themselves in self-development by all legitimate means rather than waiting for government sponsorship.
In his remarks at the training, the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Emmanuel Chinwewo Aguma, SAN, charged the law officers to take their duties seriously, learn to work as a team, and do all within their powers so as to be able to compete favourably with their counterparts in private practice.
Aguma decried attitudinal problems observable with the law officers, charging them to use their tools very well to enhance their growth in the legal profession.
The Attorney-General said that lawyers need to be versatile so as to fit into whatever position they find themselves, reminding them to always see the state government as their client whose interest should be paramount in their minds.
He said that the state government, under the leadership of Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has invested so much on justice delivery and enhancement of the rule of law in the state.
It would be recalled that before Governor Wike was sworn-in in May, 2015, the judiciary system in the state was in a state of comatose, with all the courts in state closed down because, the government then in power, did not attach any significance to justice delivery, rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary.
According to the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, the present government of Chief Wike inherited a judiciary system that was replete with crisis. In fact, on resumption of office, the courts in the state were closed down over a tussle on who would head the judiciary at the time.
That act, which was seen as illegal and unconstitutional, was vehemently condemned by all and sundry.
However, immediately governor Nyesom Wike was sworn-in as Governor of the state, one of the first things he did was to announce the then most senior judge, Hon. Justice Daisy Wotube Okocha, as Acting Chief Judge of the State, while Hon. Justice Christiana Gabriel-Nwankwo was announced as the Acting President of Customary Court of Appeal in the state. The Governor also immediately ordered the re-opening of all the courts in the state.
The re-opening of the courts in the state put an end to the aberration then experienced in the state judiciary.
Even the appointment of the current Chief Judge of the State, Hon. Justice Adanma Iyayi- Laminkara, followed due process. Even though she is not an indigene of the state, Governor Wike appointed Hon. Justice lyayi Laminkara being the most senior judge of the High Court at the time.
As part of ensuring the independence of judiciary in the state, the Governor ensures that funds meant for the judiciary are always provided for within the limits of available funds, while also ensuring that the budgetary demands of the judiciary is met without allowing the officials to go cap in hand to beg for funds.
This aura of independence that the judiciary in the state enjoys gives it also the ability to carry out programmes and projects.
The State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Sir Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma, SAN, in an interview, announced that infrastructurally, developments in the state are very visible, especially as it concerns the judiciary.
Some infrastructural projects that the Wike administration has embarked upon to ease the work of the judiciary and the rule of law and to enhance justice delivery in the state include, but not limited to the following; the building of the Nigeria Bar Association House(NBA Port Harcourt House), the new Federal High Court building in Port Harcourt; massive renovation and reconstruction of Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt and the ongoing renovation of the National Industrial Court complex, while renovation of Block B in the State High Court premises is about to begin due to structural defects noticed on the building.
The welfare package that Governor Wike has mapped out for judicial officers serving in the State is unprecedented. Chief Wike has bought a new set of cars for all judges in the state, not minding whether some of them already had official cars assigned to them previously.
Presently, the construction of residences for judges in the state is ongoing. It is all part of the governor’s welfare package for judicial officers. What is more, the official residences for the judges in the state are for keeps after retirement. This will at least allay the fears of many judges who are yet to have a house of their own.
The same welfare packages have also been extended to judges of the state origin who are currently serving in Federal High courts, Courts of Appeal, and Supreme Court.
The governor has also promised to make vehicles available to this cadre of judges as part of the welfare package.
The magistrates in the state are not left out in the welfare package of Governor Wike. For instance, in 2015, the governor bought 47 brand new Honda cars for magistrates in the state.
The governor, according to the Attorney-General of the State, has a robust plan, which will soon be unveiled, geared towards giving judges a certain degree of job security and satisfaction.
The impact of all these efforts by the state government is targeted at enhancing quick justice delivery and reducing the temptation of corrupt practice by judicial officers.
It is obvious that Governor Wike, who has been unrelenting in making the state safe and secure for all residents and people of the state is really supportive, through the numerous projects and activities especially as it concerns the judiciary and ofcourse, justice delivery in the State.
Oruigoni is Information Officer, Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications.