The Rivers State House of Assembly, yesterday, passed and approved the state’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework 2021 to 2023.
It also announced formal plans by the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, to present the 2021 budget, today.
This follows a letter from the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, to the House for the approval of the MTEF 2021 to 2023.
The Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Martin Amaewhule, who led the debate on the floor of the House, said the state Medium Term Expenditure Framework 2021 to 2023 was in line with the state’s Fiscal Responsibility Law of 2010.
The Speaker, Rt. Hon Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani, in his submission, said the MTEF would have positive impact in the state.
As part of plans to present the state’s 2021 Appropriation Bill to the House, the Rivers State Executive Council had after a meeting, last Monday, approved a budget proposal of N478, 660, 773, 476 for 2021 fiscal year.
The Commissioner for Finance, Hon Isaac Kamalu, who briefed journalists after the meeting, at the Banquet Hall of Government House, Port Harcourt, said the proposed budgetary estimate would help government to accomplish all ongoing projects in the state, and also enable the government to make life better for the people.
Kamalu, who is also supervises the state Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, said the council further approved the Medium Term Expenditure Framework for the state for 2021-2023.
Also addressing the journalists, the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, said that the council further approved a budget for the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC).
The budget would enable the state electoral umpire to conduct the 2021 Local Government Elections tentatively in April.
According to him, a total sum of N2, 747, 351, 405.13 was approved for RSIEC, which is expected to conduct the local government election in line with 1999 Constitution.
Nsirim further said that the council also approved the construction of a new motor park within the precinct of the newly commissioned Rebisi Flyover, which is intended to curb activities of illegal park operators in that axis.
“This is in line with the urban renewal vision of His Excellency. Recall that the new Rebisi Flyover Bridge that was commissioned a few weeks ago has changed the landscape and skyline in that vicinity.
“And to ensure that the illegal motor parks around the flyover do not deface the aesthetics that have been achieved, government is acquiring land near the flyover bridge to build a befitting motor park for them”, he added.
Don’t Appoint Weak Lawyers As Judges, Wike Tasks NJC …Swears In Justice Obuzor As CCA Acting President …Unveils Courthouse To Promote ADR
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has recommended to the National Judicial Council (NJC) not to appoint lawyers as judges who lack the capacity to be bold and courageous in the discharge of their judicial functions.
Also, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has inaugurated the state’s Multi-door Courthouse that would offer alternative resolution to litigations bothering on trade deals and social relationships.
According to Wike, such lily-livered judges have moulded the Judiciary into an institution that is unable to live up to its responsibility of dispensing justice according to law.
Wike gave the recommendation at the swearing in of Justice Ihenacho Wilfred Obuzor as the acting president of the Rivers State Customary Court of Appeal at the Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The governor maintained that a judge who was bothered about who would be offended by his ruling or avoid to be accused should not have been appointed in the first place because justice cannot be advanced in such manner.
“It is unfortunate that the Judiciary is not living up to expectation. I should not be one of those who should be criticising it. But I am saying what is the reality.
“Any judge that does not have the mind and courage is not supposed to be a judge. So, NJC should consider, look at people, look at the judges, and ask: can they be courageous to do what is right?
“It should not be just that this person is intelligent. A judge should be firm and give judgment the way the law says it should be.”
The governor assured that the Rivers State Government would not allow any courageous and bold judge in the state who was discharging his or her duties within the confines of the law to be blackmailed.
He said it was important for judges to dispense justice according to their conscience and the law, and be comfortable that they upheld the law.
According to him, one of the reasons the state was providing judges of Rivers extraction houses was to safeguard them from corruption.
“People must do things according to law. But if you go outside the law and you’re punished, count me out. But if you’re within the law and anybody thinks that because he has people to punish you, Rivers State Government will not agree to it.”
Wike also stated that all capital entitlements captured in the 2021 budget of the state that were due to the Judiciary have been released to it.
The governor advised against divisions among judicial officers because it would weaken the strength of the Judiciary.
He urged the new president of the Rivers State Customary Court of Appeal to leverage on the successes of his predecessor and work to make the court stronger in dispensing justice.
Wike expressed shock and sorrow on the death of the former President of Rivers State Customary Court of Appeal, late Justice Christiana Gabriel-Nwankwo.
The governor described Justice Gabriel-Nwankwo as one of the state’s distinguished jurists who used their knowledge and skills to advance justice delivery.
Similarly, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has inaugurated the state’s Multi-door Courthouse that would offer alternative resolution to litigations bothering on trade deals and social relationships.
The inauguration event held at the Rivers State High Court Complex in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Wike said establishment of the multi-door courthouse is a further demonstration of his administration’s commitment to put in place a comprehensive judicial system that would serve the dispute resolution needs of businesses and investments in the state, as well as parties from other states that may be willing to submit to its jurisdiction.
The governor maintained that the multi-door courthouse system would further expand the doors and frontiers of effective justice delivery to the people with players in the business and investment community as the greatest beneficiaries.
“Rivers State cannot but join the expanding jurisdictions across the world where the multi-door courthouse system is becoming part of the dominant alternative to litigation and arbitration in the resolution of commercial disputes, including, even relationship conflicts.”
Wike explained that the commitment of his administration to sustain the ongoing infrastructural transformation of the state has continued to attract more trade deals and investments into the state, while some existing companies are expanding their operations.
According to Wike, expansion in business operations has naturally and inevitably, caused an increase in commercial and investment disputes that would require speedy, cost effective and mutually mediated and accepted resolutions in the state.
“This is more so, when businesses cannot continue to burden their book balances with huge litigation costs in the midst of declining revenues and profit margins occasioned by the downturns in our national economy.
“Furthermore, apart from being faster in relation to litigation, one of the profound advantages of mediation is that it preserves commercial relationships after the conflict, which is what every businessman or woman needs.”
Wike said there is, therefore, the need to sensitize the business community about multi-door-courthouse and what they stand to gain from its services.
Speaking further, Wike reiterated his administration’s fundamental commitment of transforming the judicial system and make Rivers State a pre-eminent judicial hub in the southern region of Nigeria.
The governor also explained that two weeks after the State Executive Council (SEC) approved the construction of a new magistrate court complex for the state as part of plans to decongest the State High Court premises, the contractor for the project has been mobilised and construction work begun.
“When completed, this complex will accommodate all the magistrate courts presently domiciled in the State High Court complex and free-up spaces to accommodate more high courtrooms and expand access to judicial services for our citizens.”
The governor asserted that his administration has deliberately prioritised the welfare and comfort of judicial officers and magistrates in the state.
He said a law has been assented to make it a policy to provide status houses for every judicial officer of Rivers State origin, irrespective of the jurisdiction under which you are serving, whether Rivers State, Federal Judiciary, or the Judiciary of any other state of the federation.
In his speech, the Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Simeon Amadi said the multi-door courthouse system would regulate, encourage and strengthen the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism in Rivers State.
Justice Amadi emphasised the core objectives of the Rivers State Multi-door Courthouse, as provided in Section 2 of the law to include the following: “Enhance access to justice by providing alternative mechanism to supplement litigation in the resolution of disputes, minimise frustrations and delay in the justice delivery system by providing a standard legal framework for fair and efficient settlement of disputes through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
“Serve as the focal point for the promotion of alternative dispute resolution in Rivers State, and promote the growth and effective functioning of justice system through alternative dispute resolution methods.”
Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor said it was a dawn of new era for Rivers State as it joins the league of over 15 other states of the federation to commence the operation of a multi-door courthouse.
According to him, it is a court connected mechanism that would promote alternative peaceful resolution of dispute.
“There is no gain saying the fact that access to justice is a constitutional rights and that the core elements of that right include speedy, efficient, cost effective administration of justice.”
The leader, Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Rivers State and former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Onueze Okocha, SAN, said the core reason for the establishment of the multi-door courthouse system is for the speedy delivery of justice and access to justice.
The highlight of the event is the conferment of Wike as a fellow of the International Dispute Resolution Institute by Prof. C. J. Amasike.
NASS Begins Debate On 2022 N16.39trn Budget
The Senate, yesterday, commenced debate on the general principles of the 2022 budget.
President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, who presided over the session, said that the debate will be concluded, today.
President Muhammadu Buhari, had, last Thursday, submitted the 2022 Appropriation Bill to a joint sitting of the National Assembly.
It is titled, ‘A bill for an Act to authorise the issuance from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the total sum of N16,391,023, 917,692, etc.”
Similarly, the House of Representatives has said it would commence debate on the 2022 budget proposal presented to a joint session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari last Thursday.
The Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who made the disclosure at plenary, yesterday, said the debate would take place, today and tomorrow.
He said the copies of the budget will be distributed to the members, and directed interested lawmakers to submit their names to the House Clerk, Ben Akubueze.
Gbajabiamila also said that the time table for the budget defence with Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government would be released, today.
He added that the House would adjourn plenary after the debate sessions to start the budget defence.
“We are going to distribute copies of President Muhammadu Buhari letter and budget to lawmakers. Members who are interested in debate on the budget as presented, the merits and demerits and the general principles of the budget as presented by Mr. President.
“Please, send your names to the clerk. We will be having the debate, two days. Wednesday and Thursday after which we will suspend plenary for work to start on the budget, the budget defense.
“The timetable will be released to the committees by tomorrow. So, if you are interested send your names to the clerk today. Add the dates you’re interested in contributing. Whether Wednesday or Thursday, write it next to your name”, Gbajabiamila said.
Wike Signs Housing Bill For Retired Judicial Officers Into Law
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has said the provision of personal homes for judicial officers of Rivers’ extraction would serve as good motivation to resist enticements of all forms capable of compromising the rectitude of their judicial functions.
He stated this, yesterday, at the Government House, Port Harcourt, after signing into law two bills passed by the Rivers State House of Assembly, and presented to him by the Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Martins Amaewhule.
The two bills are Rivers State Judicial Institute Law No. 8 of 2021, and the Rivers State Housing Scheme for Judicial Officers Law, No. 10 of 2021.
Wike pointed out that the law would contribute to promoting judicial independence and reduce all forms of corruption among judicial officers.
“The second bill which I’ve assented to, has to do with the housing scheme. This is where I think, when we talk about autonomy, this is the main autonomy the Judiciary should be talking about.
“And in carrying out judicial functions, one thing that gives people hope is shelter. Part of the reasons why people are corrupt is that they don’t have the opportunity to own a house where they can put their heads at the end of the day, at retirement.
“So, for us as a government, we believe that one of the things that we do to stop corruption is to allow them to have their own house.
“I don’t want to see any Rivers judicial officer working in the Federal High Court, Industrial Court, Appeal Court or Supreme Court, indicted for corruption. I don’t want to see that happen to Rivers indigenes.
“Government must from the day of appointment, and on retirement, ensure they have their homes. If they say, they don’t want, then, government can pay them the due financial equivalent in lieu. But it is our own responsibility to do so.”
Wike explained that all judicial officers of Rivers origin serving in the state and federal judicial system were entitled to benefit from the accommodation that should be provided.
According to Wike, the initiative is novel and different from what Lagos State had done that only catered for their judges serving within the state and not extended to the federal judicial system.
“It’s one profession that the moment you’re retired, there’s nothing you can do about the practice of law. If a medical doctor retires from civil service, the medical doctor can go into private practice and own his or her own hospital.
“But as retired judge, you’re not allowed by law to practice again after service. So, it is not only for judicial officers who are working in Rivers State but judicial officers who are from Rivers State and also working at the federal courts.
“Wherever you are doing your work, you have no reason to complain because you have a home at the end of the day. So, why will anybody come to entice you for anything? And since it is not provided in the federal scheme of work, we have to care for our own people whether working here or outside.”
Speaking about the Rivers State Judicial Institute Law No. 8 of 2021, Wike explained that the efforts were geared to support the National Judicial Council (NJC) through the National Judicial Institute (NJI) saddled with the responsibility of training judicial officers and other Judiciary staff.
According to him, the Rivers State Government would, by the law, see to it that, at least, twice in a year, judges, magistrates and other Judiciary staff access trainings that would acquaint them with the tools of their jobs.
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