The Hon. Justice Simeon Chibuzor Amadi (the incumbent Chief Judge) took his oath of office as the 9th Chief Judge of Rivers State on 26th of May, 2021. The 25th of May, 2023 made him two years in office. This article seeks to evaluate the performance of the Hon. Justice Simeon Chibuzor Amadi, in his capacity as the Chief Judge of Rivers State within the last two years in office as the Chief Judge of Rivers State.
Good governance has now achieved a global dimension. Rivers State of Nigeria can be argued to be the headquarters of good governance in Nigeria within the past eight years. The Government of Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, which will be rounding up on the 29th day of May, 2023, no doubt has remodelled infrastructural good governance and demystified “the second term prophets of doom.” Whether we can safely conclude that this mood of good governance in Rivers State have found profound expression in the Rivers State Judiciary in the past two years in office of the incumbent Chief Judge will depend on evaluation of His Lordship’s judicial policies, from the first to the most recent policy reform framework, through the instrument of subsidiary legislation.
High Court of Rivers State Exemption of Payment of Default Fees Practice Direction, No. 3 of 2021
The strike embarked upon by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) was called off in Rivers State on the 14th of June, 2021, shortly after the assumption of office of the Chief Judge of Rivers State by the incumbent Chief Judge. In order to ensure access to justice, the High Court of Rivers State Exemption of Payment of Default Fees Practice Direction, No. 3 of 2021, was issued to be effective on the 15th day of June, 2021. This Exemption of Payment of Default Fees Practice Direction is to exempt the payment of default fees (penalty) for processes that were filed within the specified time provided for in Order 44 Rule 4 of the High Court of Rivers (Civil Procedure) Rules 2010, due to the JUSUN strike, and is to apply to both Criminal and Civil Proceedings in the High Court and Magistrates Court in Rivers State. The imperativeness of the proactive step of the incumbent Chief Judge to issue this Practice Direction before the agitation and protest of lawyers and litigants, whose failure or delay in filling their processes during the JUSUN strike is due to no fault of theirs, suffices for mention.
Rivers State Multi-door Court House (RSMDCH)
After several delays, the Rivers State Multi-door Court House (RSMDCH) was finally launched on Thursday 14th October 2021, by the administration of the incumbent Chief Judge. The RSMDCH offers alternative dispute resolution channel to litigations bothering on trade deals and social relationships; and regulates, encourages and strengthens the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism in Rivers State. The core objectives of the Rivers State Multi-door Courthouse, as provided in Section 2 of the law is to include the enhancement of 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. Access to justice is a constitutional right and the core elements of that right include: speedy, efficient, cost effective administration of justice. There is also a Rule signed by the incumbent Chief Judge to regulate procedure in the RSMDCH.
Practice Direction No. 4 of 2021 on Forum Shopping
Forum shopping occurs when a litigant approaches one court but does not get desired relief and then approaches another court to obtain relief in the matter. It is also the practice of filing a suit in a Court where a party is likely to obtain favourable verdict. The Practice Direction No. 4 of 2021, which came into force on 1st December, 2021, is another proactive effort put in place by the incumbent Chief Judge of Rivers State to check forum shopping and abuse of Court process; to this end, a party or counsel on his behalf is to file affidavit of non-multiplicity of actions when commencing a civil action failure of which the suit shall not be accepted for filling and if inadvertently accepted, the party shall pay a prescribed penalty for each day of default. Bail application are also to be filed in the Judicial Division where the offence was alleged to have been committed, for the bail application in the High Court to be accepted for filling and/or heard, it must be filed with an affidavit of non-multiplicity of bail applications and must confirm the fact that there is no ongoing trial against the Applicant before any High Court for the offence or offences for which the Applicant was remanded by the Magistrate. Although, it can be argued that forum shopping in itself is a litigation strategy and ought not to have been prohibited, however, the prohibition of conducts likely to result to abuse of court process in relation to multiplicity of action on the same subject matter amongst the same or similar parties cannot be faulted.
Magistrates’ Courts of Rivers State Practice Directions No.1 of 2022 (MCRSPD 2022)
The resultant effect of the case of Lufadeju v Johnson  8 NWLR (Pt 1037) 562 is the protracted trial of Criminal cases in Magistrates’ Courts, congestion of criminal cases in Magistrates Courts and congestion of correctional centers (prisons). The practice of holding charge in Rivers which has impacted negatively on human rights was put to stop by the incumbent Chief Judge of Rivers State through the instrumentality of the Magistrates’ Courts of Rivers State Practice Directions No.1 of 2022 (MCRSPD 2022).
The MCRSPD 2022 was made by the 9th Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Simeon Chibuzor Amadi, on the 28th day of February, 2022; but commenced on the 10th day of March, 2022, and it is to be applicable in all Magisterial Districts in Rivers State. The objectives and guiding principles of the MCRSPD 2022 are to eliminate delay in criminal cases, curb the issue of congestion of criminal cases in Magistrates’ Courts and congestion of correctional centres in the State, ensure accurate return of criminal cases and give practical effect to the Rivers State Administration of Criminal Justice Law No.7 of 2015.
Launch of Family Court and Family Court Rules 2022
In December 2022, the Family Court and Family Court Rules were formally launched by the Rivers State Judiciary under the leadership of the incumbent Chief Judge. The Family Court establishment is coming about 13 years after the Rivers State House of Assembly first domesticated the Child’s Rights Act in 2009. The essence of child-friendly justice is to re-orientate and rehabilitate the child. The court will also reintegrate; bring relief and redress to the child, and not inflict corporal punishment or hardship on the child, no matter the delinquency. Under this system, the Court is obliged to listen to children, consider their views and ensure their participation and protection in the process, whether as victims, witnesses or offenders. The Family Court functions in Port Harcourt with four jurisdictions; two High Court Judges and two Magistrates. The Rivers State Family Court is the first digitalised in the Country.
Launch of Small Claims Court and Rules 2023.
In February, 2023, the Rivers State Judiciary launched a small claims court in the state. The small claims court would, among others, improve the speed of adjudication for commercial disputes involving financial claims less than five million naira, by introducing self-representation and delivery of judgments within 60 days, among other transformative procedural rules. Affirming his commitment to implementing more innovative reforms, the Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Simeon C. Amadi, DSSRS, stated that the establishment of the court is the latest in a host of judicial reforms being implemented by the state. The Rivers State Small Claims Court as a judicial intervention is a means of speedy, inexpensive and user friendly access to justice. The benefits of the Small Claims Court includes but is not limited to quick access to justice; speedy dispensation of justice; effective and efficient case management system; option of self representation or legal representation; relaxation of the Rules of Evidence; and Cost effectiveness.
Criminal Trial Practice Direction No. 1 of 2023
Notwithstanding the above efforts, the incumbent Chief Judge once again issued the Criminal Trial Practice Direction No. 1 of 2023, which came into effect on the 3rd day of April, 2023. The purpose of the instant Practice Direction is to eliminate unnecessary delay in Criminal Trials and Proceedings, occasioned by the filling of improper applications, fast tracking the hearing and determination of criminal cases including offences of Corruption, Money Laundering, all types of Financial Crimes, Rape, Kidnapping, Human Trafficking, Murder, Interlocutory Applications and Incidental Matters; Take all steps in the expeditious disposal and determination of criminal cases to reduce the delay occasioned by interlocutory applications and all other incidental matters aimed at clogging the speedy dispensation of criminal cases; ensure that the conduct of criminal cases is not stalled by unpreparedness of counsel or the parties; ensure timely determination of all criminal cases. It suffices to state that by virtue of the instant Practice Direction, information or charge to be accepted for filling and unfit for prima facie striking out, must be accompanied with an affidavit stating that investigation has been concluded and that in the opinion of the prosecutor, a prima facie case exists against the defendant and that all the witnesses are ready and available to testify, an opening statement containing issues for trial, list of witnesses and exhibits, written statement on oath of witnesses and a plea form. An opening statement containing issues for defence, list of witnesses and exhibits, written statement on oath of witnesses, plea form and notice of objection to confessional statement shall also be filed by the Defendant on receipt of the information or charge.
By this Practice Direction the Court where it is of the opinion that the case lacks merit, shall within 15 days of receipt of the case file, invite parties to address it as to why such case should not be struck out, and the matter may be struck out where the court is not satisfied with the reason given.
High Court of Rivers State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2023
It suffices to state that on the same 3rd day of April, 2023, the Chief Judge of Rivers enacted a new and leading Rules of Court in Nigeria, that is, the High Court of Rivers State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2023. The Rules not only unified the various Practice Directions issued by the previous Chief Judges since the obsolete 2010 Rules came into effect, but also made far reaching innovations that has now made Rivers State to be the leading innovator in legal procedures in Nigeria, a feat previously enjoyed by Lagos State.
The High Court of Rivers State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2023, amongst other innovations, provides for fast track procedures under Order 4, which seeks to reduce time spent on litigation to a period not exceeding 10 months from the beginning of the action to final Judgment in certain cases; Order 5 provides for fast track procedure in respect to revenue matters of the Rivers State Government; by Order 19 Rule 16, it is now expressly stated in the Rules that a Defendant to an Originating Summons has 21 days after service of the originating Summons to file his response. By Order 25 Rule 3, Discountenance of a suit after commencement of hearing is now expressly fatal, as same shall lead to dismissal and may also attract cost; to mention but a few.
In course of this study, it was observed that this is the first time in the history of the Rivers State Judiciary that a Chief Judge will achieve such policy reforms within the first two years in office, to wit: the High Court of Rivers State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2023, Criminal Trail Practice Direction No. 1 of 2023, Launch of Small Claims Court and Rules 2023, launch of family Court and signing of Family Court Rules in December 2022, Magistrates’ Courts of Rivers State Practice Directions No. 1 of 2022 (MCRSPD 2022), Practice Direction No. 4 of 2021 on Forum Shopping, Rivers State Multi-door Court House (RSMDCH) and Rules and High Court of Rivers State Exemption of Payment of Default Fees Practice Direction, No. 3 of 2021, amongst other infrastructural developments and institutional reforms.
One of the main things research shows is that a new and innovative Civil Procedure Rules is on the way for the Magistrates’ Court in Rivers State and may be ready any time soon. Indeed, the last two years in office as the Chief Judge of Rivers State has been that of impactful judicial activism through policy reforms. Like Oliver Twist, stakeholders in the justice sector in Rivers should ask for more.
In view of the foregoing, and shun from all embellishments, we can safely conclude that the mood of good governance in Rivers State have found profound expression in the Rivers State Judiciary, in Hon. Justice Simeon Chibuzor Amadi’s first two years in office as Chief Judge of Rivers State.
By: Setechi Eli
Court Fines Police, Others N20m Over Human Rights Abuses
A Port Harcourt High Court in Rivers State presided over by Justice Chinwendu Nwogu has slammed the sum of #20 million against the Inspector General of Police ,Cp Akika Augustine Ayasi and one chief Jasper F.Jumbo over breached of fundamental human rights .
The court also ordered 10% post judgement interest per annum on the judgement sum until final liquidation by the Respondents”
The further restrained the IGP , the police and Chief Jasper Jumbo ,their agents, servants ,privies and successors whosoever and in howsoever manner acting on his behalf or any member of his Jumbo major House from petitioning /reporting the applicant to the 1st and 2nd respondents or the Nigeria police force or to whosoever an in howsoever manner for the purpose of invitation, arrest, intimidation ,detaining ,harassment ,persecuting of the applicant respondent, Emmanuel Asido Esq to answer for the allegations levelled against I.E.Nwosu,SAN ,after his demise in connection with the personal agreement between l.E.Nwosu SAN ,and Jumbo Major House for the recovery of rent /compensation for Jumbo Major House from Shell petroleum Development Company of Nigeria limited by late L.E.Nwosu SAN ,in suit No .PHC/1966/2007 in Dagogo William Brown & ORS Vs the Government of Rivers State and ANOR.
The trial judge, Justice Chinwendu Nwogu made these declarative orders while ruling on a suit brought before the court by the Applicant/Respondent, Emmanuel Asido, Esq against the Inspector General of Police, CP Akika Augustine Ayasi who are the Respondents and Chief Jasper f.Jumbo ,Respondent/Applicant bordering on fundamental Rights and it’s enforcement with a suit No.PHC/311/FHR/2023.
The case of a fundamental rights action commenced by the notice of application for order enforcing a fundamental right with the accompanying processes was filed on 8.2.2023 ,wherein the Applicant seeks against the respondents jointly severally among others ,that the court due declare that the Applicant as a Nigerian citizen is entitled to enjoy his fundamental human right to freedom of movement and personal liberty as enshrined under section 35(1) and 41of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as (amended) without threat ,intimidation and harassment by the 1st and 2nd respondents on the unwarranted instigation by the 3rd respondent.
He sought a declaration was to the effect that” the statutory duties of the 1st and 2nd respondents, their agents, servants, officers or otherwise, do not cover or extend to intervention in civil matters, especially debt recovery and, therefore, are not entitled to invite, arrest or detain the Applicant on the unwarranted instigation of the 3rd Respondent(Chief Prof. Jasper F. Jumbo) to answer for the allegations against late L .E. Nwosu, SAN, and Jumbo Major House for the recovery of rent/ compensation for Jumbo Major House from Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd by late L.E. Nwosu, SAN, in Suit No.PHC/1956/2007 – Dagogo William Brown & ORS V. The Government of Rivers State of Nigeria ANOR”
He prayed court to award the sum of #50,000,000.00(fifty million naira) in his favour being and representing the cost of damages for the threat, harassment, intimidation of the Applicant by the 1st and 2nd Respondents on the unwarranted instigation by the 3rd Respondent to answer for the allegations against L .E. Nwosu, SAN, and Jumbo Major House from Shell Petroleum Development Company Nig Ltd by late L .E. Nwosu, SAN, in Suit No.PHC/1956/2007- Dagogo William Brown & ORS V. The Government of Rivers State of Nigeria ANOR”, in addition to the sum of #5,000,000.00(five million naira) as cost of litigation.
Delivering his judgement on the suit, the trial judge, justice Chinwendu Nwogu held that the Respondents have breached the fundamental Right of the Applicant and accordingly, the Applicant was entitled to compensation by way of award of damages in the sum and resolved all the issues raised by the Applicant in his favour “the application has merit and therefore succeeds”
“The sum of #20.0000,000,00 (twenty million Naira), against the Respondents jointly and or severally being and representing damages for the threat ,harassment and intimidation of the Applicant by the 1st and 2nd Respondents on the unwarranted instigation by the 3rd Respondent to answer for the allegation levelled against L.E Nwosu, SAN ,after his demise in connection with a personal agreement between L.E.Nwosu ,SAN ,and Jumbo Major House from Shell petroleum Development Company of Nigeria limited by late L.E.Nwosu, SAN ,in suit NO:PHC/1956/2007_Dagogo William Brown & ORS V Government OF Rivers State of Nigeria .10% post judgement interest per annum on the judgement sum until final liquidation by the Respondents”
By: Akujobi Amadi
Choba Stakeholders Applaud New Area Commander
Stakeholders across Choba Police Area Command have applauded the arrival of a refined police officer as Area Commander
The stakeholders ranging from Community Development Committees, Traditional Institution, youth bodies, Women and local vigilante described the new Area Commander as square peg in a square hole.
Recall recently ACP Dauda Umoru replaced ACP Stephen Akinyere as Choba Area Commander; a move which many stakeholders within the neighborhood said was apt.
The stakeholders thanked the police higher authorities for often posting officers with high repute and competency to the Area Command
They declared preparedness to give him necessary support to accomplish desired objective.
Describing Choba as a special command that requires an officer with high sense of professionalism and wealth of experience like ACP Daura, they urged him to sustain the existing peace.
They said in his arrival he had taken some wise steps culminating in the overall interest of the residents of Choba Area Command.
“ACP Daura has proved to us his capacity and efficiency on the management of human interest as it has to do with securing lives and property
“Choba being a densely populated environment with reputable higher institutions can attest his competency in the job”, they noted.
Armed Robbers Shoot Dead 30-Year-Old Man
A30-year-old Nigerian, who hailed from Awo Ommamma in Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State, was shot three times in his chest by armed robbers at the World Bank junction roundabout in Owerri, the state capital.
The father of two was said to be withdrawing money from a Point Of Sale operator when his killers struck.
His immediate elder brother, Shedrack who spoke to newsmen in Owerri, on Monday, after the police operatives released the mortuary tally to him and gave him the clean bill of health to bury him, said that his family was traumatised by the killing of his younger brother.
The distraught 32-year -old said that the armed robbers who robbed the POS operator killed his brother after accusing him of calling policemen to storm the scene.
He said that all the appeals his brother made to the armed robbers that he was not calling policemen fell on deaf ears as they shot him dead on the spot.
The businessman said that his brother was pronounced dead at the Umuguma Specialists General Hospital where policemen took him.
He said, “My name is Shedrack Anulika Chukwumerem. My younger brother’s name is Wisdom Somtochukwu Chukwumerem. He returned from abroad about three years ago. He had a house at World Bank Area N and I was living with him in his house when I was driving a commercial service bus known as Bus Imo.
“But I relocated back to the village to start up a business. We are from Umuduru Isieke in Awo-omamma in the Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State. At about 8pm on 10th August 2023, I received a distress call from his wife that my brother was shot by armed robbers
“So I drove straight to Owerri that same night and I was directed by the Policemen there to come to the Imo State Specialist Hospital and when I got there I saw my brother’s lifeless body and policemen were present there.
He was married with two kids, all girls. He would have been 30 years on November 27. He ought to be travelling back to the UK by the first week of September before he was shot dead. So, the policemen told me that there was an armed robbery attack at the Umuguma roundabout at a POS stand and my brother was there to withdraw money eventually he was shot because they noticed he was on call and the robbers thought that he was trying to call the police against them.
“And he was shot in the left side of his chest. So I deposited his body at the morgue that same night. The policemen took the tally and told me to report the next day. He was my immediate younger brother. I’m 32 years old. He would have been 30 on 27 November.
“Now I have been compelled by the Police at Umuguma Division to open a case file and I told them that I don’t want any case and I’m not interested in any case. They told me to open it even if I don’t want any case which I did.
“I went with them to the scene of the incident. It happened between 8 and 8:30 pm precisely. I have gone to the scene of the incident with the policemen and gone to the mortuary. They took pictures which I paid for. They told me to go to court and swear an affidavit which I did.
“The policemen at Umuguma Division transferred the matter to the homicide section of the State CID in Owerri which I did with money all in a bid to release my brother’s corpse for burial,” Shedrack said.
“And I was pushed to contact a lawyer. With the help of the lawyer, I have written an application to the CP for withdrawal of the case. The policemen are with the application which I submitted last week.”
Displaying the mortuary tally to our correspondent on Monday, Shedrack said that the policemen at the homicide section of the state police command had released it to him.
“He said, “After meeting with the IPO in the company of my lawyer this afternoon, the mortuary tally of my brother has been released to me. Look at it. I can now bury him. But I will first take his corpse to a closer mortuary in my town to enable me to plan for his funeral rites easier.
“He was our breadwinner. My widowed mother is depressed. Our father died 20 years ago. His first daughter is three years old while the second daughter is just a year and three months. It is a very bad development for us. We are very saddened.”
When contacted, the spokesperson for the police in the state, Henry Okoye, said that the withdrawal of the case and the family’s request for the police to allow them to bury their son do not in any way affect the investigation process.
He said that the police would continue with their investigation and once the suspects are arrested, they would be arraigned for murder.
“The withdrawal of the matter by the family doesn’t affect the police investigation. We will continue with the investigation. Once the fleeing suspects are caught, they would be arraigned for murder,” Okoye explained.
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