Democracy At 20 And The Judiciary

The judiciary is one out of the three arms of government. It is seen as the third organ of government with the responsibility of interpreting and applying the law to all cases as well as settling disputes in the court of law. In the Judiciary, law can only be law when the judges decide it so, in the course of giving their judgments during various court cases. To the commonman, the judiciary is his last hope, where he is sure of justice without fear or favour. That is because the judiciary acts as the people's protector against all forms of possible excesses of the legislative and executive organs of government. In a liberal democratic state, the judiciary has four main responsibilities: formulating the rule of law through the interpretation and application of law to respond to a verdict, settling disputes, checking legality and being a player in state politics. To accomplish these four duties, the basic principles of a liberal democratic state must be upheld along with the principles of a legal democracy and state. The Judiciary also interprets and applies the law along with the Constitution as well as provide impartial adjudications of disputes between the state and individuals, between individuals and between different levels of government within the state. This makes the Judiciary the most vital organ of government. The reliance on the courts and judicial means to addressing core moral dilemmas, political controversies and public policy questions is arguably one of the most consequential phenomena of the late 20th and early 21st century government. Equipped with newly attained judicial review, national and state high courts worldwide have been frequently asked to resolve a range of issues, varying from the scope of expression and religious liberties, reproductive and privacy freedoms, equality rights, public policies pertaining to criminal justice, education, labour and environmental protection. The increasing political importance of courts has not only become more globally widespread than ever before but has also extended its scope to become a manifold, multifaceted phenomenon that distends well beyond now standard concept of policy-making. In Akwa Ibom, it is very pertinent to state that the honour, integrity and accolades now trailing the state judiciary in terms of infrastructural development and human capacity strides are the sum total of selfless style of leadership, courageously exhibited by successive and the present administrations in the state and in the judiciary system. A retrospective look at the successions and impacts created within the judiciary system in Akwa Ibom indicated that the past administrations came with a mission to put a sound and vibrant administrative structure on ground, at least with the few courts inherited from the erstwhile Cross River State during state creation. It can rightly be said that the judiciary in Akwa Ibom recorded remarkable strides under this democratic rule than it did under the military. Nigeria's return to democracy in 1999 met Justice Edet Robert Nkop, a strong advocate of judiciary independence, as the chief judge of Akwa Ibom. Hence, Akwa Ibom judiciary under Justice Nkop was very pragmatic and decisive. It is to Nkop's credit that the single storey building hosting the office of the state chief judge and his second in command at the State Judiciary Headquarters, along Wellington Bassey Way, Uyo was completed and occupied by Justice Nkop during the Victor Attah-led administration. It was the beginning of a new air for the state judiciary as more judges were appointed, new cars given out as official vehicles to judges who hitherto were conveyed to work in rickety cars that often broke down on the road, bringing the judicial officers to public ridicule. Eased out by retirement after a fulfilled stewardship, Justice Edet Robert Nkop was succeeded by a quiet, intelligent jurist in the person of Justice Effiong David Idiong. As one who followed the administrative pattern in the judicial service and knew all the hindrances that could frustrate his administration, Justice Idiong opted for massive renovation of district courts and constructed a multi-purpose auditorium at the Judiciary headquarters in an electrifying speed. A Judiciary Guest House, business centre, office for drivers were also built by his administration. It is important to state that Justice Idiong's tenure witnessed a wave of massive judiciary infrastructural development that brought a new look to the judiciary. Next was Justice Eno Otu, who served as the fourth chief judge of Akwa Ibom. Although her tenure lasted just one year due to retirement age, Justice Otu's name went into history books as the first woman chief judge of the state, marking a new dawn for female jurists. In spite of her short tenure, Justice Otu was applauded for her policies for judicial officers and other categories of judiciary staff, who were previously left out in contract awards in the past, as they were given jobs to execute within the system. Her policies redefined the social status of judicial officers who are able to match politicians with SUV vehicles and befitting houses, like never before. The generosity of Justice Eno Otu, fondly called "Mma Number One," brought economic empowerment to many, while she opened the doors for the employment of workers into the judiciary service. When former state solicitor-general, Justice Idongesit Ntem-Isua, took over the mantle as state chief judge, she showed concern about the welfare of staff and paid arrears of claims and grants to magistrates, driving away despair and ensured a living wage scheme for judiciary staff. With a brilliant background, she was humble and respectful but firm on matters she believed were factual and supported gender equality, among other things. When Justice Stephen Okon succeeded Justice Ntem-Isua, he encouraged the multi-door court houses litigations, which help in settling cases peacefully with a quick justice delivery. Justice Okon also encouraged staff training, which was a priority for effective service delivery. Justice Godwin Abraham emerged the next chief judge of Akwa Ibom. And, under the administration of Gov Udom Emmanuel the judiciary has involved most of its counterparts in other states and can boast of a peaceful and cordial relationship with the executive and legislative arms of government. In the area of project execution, Akwa Ibom judiciary has undertaken some projects it captured in its previous budgets, such as of provision of powered boreholes in offices and quarters under the present administration. Moreover, Governor Emmanuel approved the appointment of new magistrates into Akwa Ibom Judiciary Magistracy, in spite of economic recession. Justice Abraham, during the 2018/2019 legal year, attributed the success recorded by the judiciary in the state to the support of the Udom Emmanuel-led administration which, despite the economic realities of the time, has acknowledged that the judiciary as an arm of government should be on first-line charge. He commended the Udom Emmanuel administration for its true commitment and partnership with the state judiciary, thus sustaining that arm of government, such that the administration has majorly maintained effective discharge of its responsibility in terms of emoluments to staff of the service on a regular basis. This is in addition to addressing other welfare needs in the area of information. The administration has graciously given the judiciary a site for the construction of a judiciary headquarters. Also, there is provision in the 2019 budget to build a permanent structure for the multi-door courthouse in Ikot Ekpene. So far, apart from the multi-door courthouse, there have been interventions in terms of renovations, landscaping and furnishing in other courts including High Court 3, High Court 8, Uyo, High Court Ikono, Abak, Okobo, Magistrate Court Abak, District Court Southern Ibesikpo with more expected in the new legal year. The present administration has organized workshops and trainings for judges and dispute resolution officers (DROs). Two new high court judges, Justice Uwem Freedom Ibritam and Justice Bassey Bassey Nkanga, were appointed recently and have since commenced sitting in Essien Udim and Ibiono Ibom Local Government Areas, respectively, with a brand new SUV Ford Explorer attached for ease of movement. Recently, staff promotion from the junior to senior cadre was released to motivate their productivity. Also within this administration, 188 members were appointed for the 94 customary courts in the state to exercise legal duties and maintain justice in their domain. One unique feature of the customary courts dotting various communities in the state is their proximity to the people and the affordable cost advantage to litigants. Government needs this level of court more seriously for the maintenance of law and order at the grassroots to avoid breakdown of peace and order in rural communities. The role of magistrate courts in administration of criminal justice cannot be over-emphasized. This category of courts prosecute about 98 per cent of criminal cases that come before it for trial. According to legal experts, the criminal jurisdiction of magistrates in respect of summary trial of criminal offences constitutes the major parts of the work of magistrates. Another innovation the judiciary has brought into the adjudication of justice without delay and with less cost is the introduction of family court in the magistrate courts, which has helped to resolve disputes in families without recourse to conventional courts. The family court refers matters pending before therein to the multi-door courthouse for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). By its enabling law, it now provides a court connected ADR centres, which applies the ADR mechanism. In Akwa Ibom the multi-door courthouse now known as Justice Eno Otu Multi-Door Courthouse, has enhanced user-friendly access to justice by providing timely and cost-effective access to justice, thereby reducing citizens' frustration and delays in justice. It provides a standard legal framework for cases and efficient settlement of disputes through ADR Section 2a(b) of the AKMDC Laws 2011. The multi-door courthouse collaborates and maintains working relationship with reputable and recognized organizations, including the Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution of Akwa Ibom Ministry of Justice in its operations, services and referral of matters on terms and conditions agreed upon by the parties of Section 4 of the AKMDC Law 2011. Referrals of matters from high courts or magistrate courts to the multi-door courthouse are encouraged to facilitate a more speedy disposal of cases as stated in Section 14(1)a of the AKMDC 2011. Most persons use the multi-door courthouse to settle dispute because of the inexpensive nature of initiatives and prosecuting their matter and the respectable manner they are treated. The judiciary arm has applied more stringent measures on criminals and it is expected that judges would continue to be devoted, and diligent to duties without fear or favour. Justice Abraham, during an inaugural meeting with Akwa Ibom Justice Sector Reform Team, assured the people of the state that stakeholders in the justice sector will be more committed to wiping out cultism, terrorism, kidnapping and all crimes by administering justice to any culprit for a peaceful society. The reform team, among other things, adopted a Justice Reform Initiative to establish a Sexual Assault Referral Centre called Apape Centre at Immanuel General Hospital, Eket. The centre with the help of the chief judge took off on May 23, 2017, after official inauguration on May 23, 2017 by Governor Emmanuel. The centre has been up and doing and, as at March 15, 2018, it had processed 160 rape cases out of which, 90 per cent are children. The Agape Centre ensures that rape victims get medical attention promptly before their cases are referred to other stakeholders like the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare as well as female lawyers under the umbrella of FIDA to ensure that justice prevails to serve as deterrent to other perpetrators. Justice Abraham has sponsored some persons at the centre to attend a workshop organized by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). According to the state attorney-general and commissioner for justice, Mr Uwemedimo Nwoko, the state governor signed the cult group and other violent behaviours prohibited order 2018, in which about 40 cult groups identified by security agents across the state were listed. About 50 suspected cultists in the state were arraigned before an Uyo High Court on a two-count charge of terrorism and unlawful possession of fire-arms contrary to Section 6 of Akwa Ibom Internal Security and Enforcement Law 2009 and Section 3 of Robbery and Fire Arms (special provision) Act 2004. This has shown the commitment of the state government in partnering the state judiciary to uphold the principles of the rule of law in maintaining peace, orderliness as well as security of lives and property in Akwa Ibom. There is no atmosphere of impunity in the state, rather there is diligent prosecution and conviction of culpable offenders, which drives home the message that crime cannot be tolerated in the state. Since the return to democracy, the judiciary has helped public interest in civil matters to be protected, maintained, balanced in high states environment of contractual and investment transactions, legal advice and legislation, among others. It is very pertinent to state that the honour, integrity and accolades now trailing Akwa Ibom the Judiciary in terms of arbitrations, infrastructural development and human capacity strides are the sum total of selfless style of leadership courageously exhibited by successive and present administration in the judiciary arm.

You can share this post!

Related Posts


    No Comment Posted

Leave Comments