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Why Rivers Won’t Enact Bill For Financial Autonomy Of Judiciary -Wike …Embrace Judicial Activism, Gov Charges NBA …Seeks Speedy End To VAT Case At S’Court

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has said that the state government would not enact a bill for financial autonomy of the Judiciary.
This is as the governor, also urged Nigerian lawyers to engage in judicial activism as a deliberate measure to addressing the slow dispensation of justice, and attempts to stifle the rights of the citizenry, just as he sought accelerated justice dispensation of the suit seeking constitutional interpretation on the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) by the Supreme Court.
The governor maintained that it would be futile to bother the state House Assembly with such bill since the 1999 Constitution as amended already recognises independence of the Judiciary.
Wike made this assertion at the dinner in honour of delegates to the 61st Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), at the banquet hall, Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday night.
The governor noted that since Nigeria does not practice unitary system of government, it would be wrong for the Federal Government to issue directives to states on how they should run their affairs.
“Nobody can force me on how my state will operate. Nobody can say send this bill to the Legislature for Judiciary autonomy. The Constitution has already guaranteed that the Judiciary must be independent and we have agreed on that.
“Amendment had been done that the Judiciary must be independent, and on first line charge. If I’m not obeying that, there is a sanction for it.”
The governor explained that the state government had released all 2021 capital expenditure due to the Judiciary since September.
He challenged the Federal Government to prove it has done same.
Wike urged the Federal Government to desist from playing to the gallery with the issue of financial autonomy for the Judiciary.
According to him, a Federal Government with decrepit High Court buildings across the country cannot truly claim it fully supports financial autonomy for the Judiciary.
“Are they giving the Judiciary at the federal level the budget they are supposed to have in order to put the courts in order?”
Wike warned that the Rivers State Government will resist any attempt by the Federal Government to deduct funds meant for the state under the guise of implementing financial autonomy for the Judiciary.
The governor said the NBA cannot continue to be docile while security agencies are used by the Federal Government to intimidate and harass judges.
According to him, “When the Judiciary is destroyed, the legal profession is gone.”
Wike, also took a swipe at the past leadership of NBA for not protesting against the closure of courts in Rivers State for almost two years by the Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led administration.
He used the occasion to eulogise the Chairman of Council of Legal Education, Nigerian Law School, Emeka Ngige (SAN) for endorsing the establishment of the Port Harcourt campus of the Nigerian Law School.
The Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani, charged the NBA to all time stands in defence of the interest of people of the country.
The President, Nigerian Bar Association, Olumide Akpata, SAN, commended Wike for his unflinching support for the Judiciary and the Bar.
Akpata said the governor’s conscientious support and defence of the Judiciary was a pointer to his firm belief that institution of state should be strengthened.
The NBA president stated that when Wike leaves office, posterity would remember him as a man who fervently contributed his quota to nation building.
Chairman, Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria in Rivers State and former NBA President, Onueze C.J. Okocha lauded Wike for his numerous landmark achievements in office.
Earlier, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike urged Nigerian lawyers to engage in judicial activism as a deliberate measure to addressing the slow dispensation of justice, and attempts to stifle the rights of the citizenry, just as he sought accelerated justice dispensation of the suit seeking constitutional interpretation on the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) by the Supreme Court.
The governor gave the charge, last Monday, at the 61st Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Port Harcourt.
Wike said no excellence can be achieved in the nation’s judicial system when judges lack the courage to enforce the law with equal measure because they are constantly under some form of political intimidation or pressure to please vested interests.
He wondered why the NBA has continued to focus less on promoting and fighting for the values of good governance, democracy, judicial independence, human rights and the rule of law when there is urgent need for them to do so.
“Never in our political history has Nigeria been so badly governed and denied of good governance with the Federal Government woefully failing in its basic duties to provide for the wellbeing and security of its own citizens as we have experienced in the last six years.
“On a daily basis the economic, social and political rights, including the rights to personal security, freedom of speech, association, dissent and peaceful protests, as well as the right to personal liberty are being violated with impunity by the present central administration and its security apparatus.
“The invasion on personal liberty has been brazen and indiscriminate, such that even judges of the superior courts, including Supreme Court justices, have in the recent past been victims of midnight assaults on their premises and subjection to unlawful arrests and imprisonments.
“Lately, the new devious trend is to tag security risks to innocent Nigerians and opposition elements and use the immigration authority to seize their international passports without a prior court order.”
Wike said it is not enough for the Federal Government to issue Executive Order 10 and do nothing more pragmatic about resourcing the Judiciary to the fullest possible extent, including enhanced judicial welfare and conditions of service.
According to him, there was need to seek judicial interpretation of the Executive Order 10 because, in itself, it is an oppressive erosion of the powers and autonomy of the sub-national governments to administer their own judicial budgets in line with prevailing economic indices.
“It is for similar reasons of strengthening fiscal federalism that we are in court to determine the proper authority, under our Constitution for imposing and collecting the Value Added Tax (VAT) in our country.
“These are very nationally sensitive issues and Nigerians are eagerly waiting for the final outcome of the judicial process. We, therefore, wonder why the Supreme Court is not giving accelerated hearing to these matters and respectfully request that this should be done in the national interest.”
Speaking further, Wike said it was time for everybody to work collectively towards building a strong legal system that is well-resourced, independent and effective in the administration of justice.
He said his administration has built, rebuilt, furnished and equipped old and new courthouses for the entire spectrum of the state and federal judicial system, including the Rivers State High Court, the Federal High Court, the National Industrial Court and the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt.
Wike remarked that his administration is also spending N16billion to build the Nabo Graham-Douglas, SAN, Nigerian Law School campus in Port Harcourt.
This is in addition to the provision of administration and maintenance overheads of N10million per month for the next four years.
In his address, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, charged the NBA and its members that serve in various offices in the arms of government to lead the crusade to address the poor condition of service of national judicial officers.
Justice Muhammad, who was represented by Justice Mary Odili, in his remarks before declaring the NBA conference open, observed that administration of justice is being hampered by assault that litigants, especially politicians and some lawyers, launch on the Judiciary when their ends are not met.
He urged the NBA to also take measures to discipline its erring members who do not only ridicule the Judiciary but also abuse its processes.
Justice Muhammad noted that as Nigeria remain faced with the challenges of kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, agitations for secession and resource control, the peace of the country now rests on the balance of the scale of justice.
In his keynote address, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Most Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukuh, said it has been difficult to review the nation’s Constitution in a manner that meets the current aspirations of Nigerians because of the poor quality of those saddled with such responsibility.
According to him, any tenable constitution should be one that provides a mirror for each Nigerians to recognise him or herself as a citizen and not as an instrument that distributes favours to vested interests, sections or tribes.
Kukah wondered about the usefulness of having 120,000 members on NBA list that cannot be harnessed to provide the leadership that was required to save the country from the quagmire of having a workable constitution for Nigeria.
He said Nigerians suffer identity crisis because politics have been immersed in religion and making it difficult to have legal system that can address all issues and promote freedom and justice without any form of discrimination.
“Our politicians must become very careful and more circumspect. If we are going to take a lesson away from Boko Haram, from banditry, from where we find ourselves now, it is that there is an urgent need for politicians to become more restrained in their involvement with religion; because their religious identity remains a very troubling identity.”
Deputy Senate President, Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege said the National Assembly has taken steps to ensure transparency of elections in Nigeria by giving nod to the electronic transmission of results.
On his part, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila said the Legislature was committed to ensuring that the rule of law thrives in the country.
In his welcome address, NBA President, Olumide A. Akpata explained that the 2021 conference comprises over 25 technical sessions where subject matter experts would lead conversations primarily aimed at envisaging the future of the legal profession within the context of a rapidly changing world and measures that lawyers would be required to embrace in order to remain relevant.
He expressed the profound gratitude of the NBA to the government and people of Rivers State led by Wike, for their support and legendary hospitality.
Present at the conference were the Governor of Sokoto State, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong; former NBA presidents, Onueze O.C.J. Okocha (SAN); Okey Wali (SAN); Paul Usoro, SAN; and Austin Alege, SAN, and lawyers from the 36 states of the country.
Others are Hon Femi Gbajabiamila represented by Barrister Luke Onofiok; Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, in a representative capacity; President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem; Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Simon Amadi; former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki; former Rivers State Governor, Sir Celestine Omehia; former Deputy Governor of Bauchi State, M.D. Abubakar; among others.

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PDP’ll Support Presidential Candidate With Capacity To Salvage Nigeria -Wike …Says, I Won’t Impose My Successor

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has explained that only a courageous person with the capacity and vision to salvage the country would be supported to fly the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general election.
He clarified that although the party was yet to decide whether such candidate would be from the southern or northern part of Nigeria, adding that “one thing is certain, the candidate will be one who can confront the evil tactics of All Progressives Congress (APC)”.
Speaking on African Independent Television (AIT), yesterday, Wike said the process to determine who PDP would field as its presidential candidate would be a turbulent one.
“Let nobody come and tell you that in arriving at a presidential candidate that it will be easy. No way, it can never be. You know, there are two types of turbulences. There is turbulence that will not have a crash, which is a normal turbulence. There are turbulences that there is likely to be a crash.
“Our own turbulence in PDP is the normal turbulence, which I believe we will get through it, but APC turbulence is a turbulence that is likely to lead to a crash.
“PDP has redeemed its position towards what Nigerians are expecting, because Nigerians are tired of what is going on in the country. So, they need an alternative, and the only alternative as it is today is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).”
Wike said as a firm and courageous person, who having demonstrated such selfless leadership in Rivers State, he would only support a presidential candidate who would not mortgage the party for other selfish interests.
“And so, if you want to run for presidency under PDP, I will not support somebody who’ll just want to bear the name of former presidential candidate, I will not agree to that. I must see that you are prepared for it, and to confront this evil called APC.”
Wike boasted that he feels fulfilled that PDP got it right with a peaceful conduct of its national convention that saw the emergence of a new competent National Working Committee (NWC).
He dismissed insinuations in some quarters that PDP governors had forced on an early convention because they wanted sole control of the party.
According to him, any true party man would love a PDP that is stable, focus and forward looking.
The governor maintained that already the new leadership of the PDP, waiting to be sworn-in on the December 9, 2021, have started engaging Nigerians and other party members on identifying what the problems are and how to address them properly.
Wike said Nigerians are tired of the misrule of APC and would not allow their evil to continue beyond 2023.
“Nigerians are waiting. Nigerians cannot have this type of evil come up again in 2023. We will be doing a disservice to Nigerians to allow this to continue.”
He said PDP is already aware of the antics of the APC-controlled Federal Government to ensure it holds on to power at all cost.
According to him, APC is already gearing up to deplore unconstitutional means to frustrate the conduct of a free and fair 2023 general election.
Wike expressed strong reservation on the likelihood of President MuhammaduBuhari ever assenting to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
“The president will not sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. The signs are already there. It is dead on arrival. The president does not disappoint people.”
He stated that the seemingly disagreement between members of the national lawmakers and APC governors over the Electoral Act Amendment Bill was devised to frustrate it.
The governor wondered why the president would be seeking INEC’s advice on a law that is already passed by the National Assembly.
He asserted that issues of security and cost implication would be used eventually as reasons why presidential assent would be declined.
Wike said the current Senate and House of Representatives controlled by the APC lack the capacity to use veto power to override Buhari, if he refuses to assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
Speaking on how his successor would emerge, Wike reassured that the leadership of the party would meet to decide who to support at the appropriate time.
Wike maintained that he was obliged to ensure that PDP wins the 2023 governorship election, but he would not impose any candidate on the party.
“There is no right thinking Rivers person who will say Wike’s administration has not done well for Rivers State. And so, I believe everybody will want somebody who has something positive to add.
“One mistake I will not make is to impose somebody. From my experience as a student of history, reality has shown that it is difficult for you to say Joseph is the man I can trust. Until you give somebody power and money, that is only when you will know whether that person is trustworthy or not.”
Wike said God will not allow someone that will destroy all the remarkable progress the state has made over the years to be the next governor.
According to him, God will ensure that it is only someone who is courageous, firm and ready to protect the interest of Rivers State that will succeed him.
“Rivers State is a state that so many people have interest. It is a state that you have to put your feet on the ground. It is a state that you have to annoy a lot of Nigerians, and a lot of Nigerians will hate you. But what is important is for you to know what is good for your people, and stand for your people. Do not allow personal interest to sway you against the interest of your people.”

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‘140m Nigerians Lack Access To Justice’

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About 140million Nigerians are among the 5.1billion people in the world that lack access to justice, Country Director, Hague Institute of Innovations of Law (HIIL), Mrs. Ijeoma Nwafor has said.
She said this while addressing the Justice Transformation Lab in Kaduna, adding that 11million residents in Kaduna State also lacked access to justice.
According to her, the Hague Institute of Innovations of Law came into being in Nigeria in 2018 and had been in Imo State before coming to Kaduna State, adding that it is ready to help 150million Nigerians have access to justice by solving the most urgent and most important of their justice challenges in the next nine years.
She added, “We want to help 150million Nigerians solve their most pressing justice problems by 2030. This is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
The country director explained that HIIL intervention is hinged on five pillars such as working from data, applying best practices, scaling game-changers, creating enabling environment for actionable plans, and strengthening the movement to ensure that people-centred justice is possible in Kaduna and in Nigeria.
Responding, the Attorney General of Kaduna State and Commissioner for Justice, Mrs. Aisha Dikko, said that HIIL as an organization focuses on a user-friendly approach to provide access to justice.
She opined that the collaboration would support the justice sector in identifying key issues and practical solutions to the administration of justice in Kaduna State.
She expressed the belief that the engagement and outcome will birth the first Justice Transformation Lab in Kaduna State, saying that the Ministry of Justice is determined to work with all stakeholders in focussing on effectively achieving its mandate.

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Put Pressure On Buhari To Sign Amended Electoral Act, Wike Tells Media

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Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has charged the media to exert pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the amended Electoral Act.
The governor said it was important that the media should enlighten Nigerians to know why there should be electronic transmission of election results in order to save the nation’s democracy.
Wike stated this in his remark after he was conferred with the “Gold Prize for Exceptional Leadership,” award by the This Nigeria Media Newspaper in Abuja, last Wednesday.
He said considering the importance of the Electoral Act amendment to the survival of the nation’s democracy, the media ought to deem it a priority to exert pressure on the president to sign the amended Act.
“As watchdog of the society”, the governor said, “the Nigerian media should enlighten Nigerians on the benefits of both direct and indirect primaries.
“Who are those to benefit more if the direct primaries is conducted. Who are those to benefit more if it is indirect primaries? So, it is important that Nigerians should know why there should be electronic transmission of results in order to save our democracy”, the governor said.
The governor said the only way those in position of authority can become accountable to the people, is when electoral process is free and fair.
He maintained any electoral system that permits security agencies to be used to rig election, and for Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials to be manipulated, would not yield accountable governance.
Wike commended the INEC for the successful conduct of the just concluded Anambra State governorship election.
“Now, they have performed well in Anambra State, everybody is praising them. But when they did not perform well in Rivers State, should we praise them? We cannot. When a general in the Army will convert a whole division to INEC office, will you be happy?”
Wike urged Nigerians to always deemphasise their ethnic and religious affiliation in order for the country to achieve the desired national cohesion.
“There is the need for all of us to still believe that this country must be united. But, if we want to move forward, we must drop the issue of where you come from. We must drop the issue of where you worship. Overemphasis of these things causes a lot of disintegration and which is not the best for us.”
Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who chaired the occasion, said the country was going through tough times.
According to him, the current travails of the country also offer opportunities for the emergence of a great nation.
The guest speaker, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, who delivered the This Nigeria Inaugural Lecture with the theme: ‘National Cohesion for Sustainable Growth and Progress: The Nigeria Dilemma,’ blamed the drafters of the Nigerian Constitution for the country’s lack of national cohesion.
“Something as fundamental as a Constitution, the debate and the issues that ought to form the kernel of our governance have never been subjected to the intellectual rigour that is required. The result is that we have never debated our Constitution based on the peculiarities, the cultural expectations, the hopes, the anxieties, and the fears of ordinary Nigerians”, he said.
He argued that the country would not be fixed until Muslims understand the grievances of the Christians; and until Christians understand the grievances of Muslims.
The Publisher of ThisNigeria, Mr. Eric Osagie said Wike was conferred with the flagship award of the newspaper because of his exceptional leadership in the vanguard of infrastructural revolution.
The “Gold Prize for Exceptional Leadership”, according to him, “is usually bestowed on that man or woman who has impacted exceedingly in the lives of Nigerians, and in whose legacy has potential of transcending time and space.
“Wike”, Osagie noted, “has injected over 70percent of the state income in capital projects in the funding of roads and other critical infrastructure. A feat, that is unprecedented in the history of state administration in Nigeria”.
This Nigeria Newspapers also conferred Gold Prize in Public Service award on Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum; Registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Ishaq Oloyede; and Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, respectively.

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