Governor Ugwuanyi’s giant strides for justice

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

In Nigeria, there are many who believe that justice can be bought and sold at the right price. The grievance many Nigerians nurse in this wise is further aggravated by the fact that in a country where 91 million people stutter below the poverty line, only the rich, and in most cases those enriched by Nigeria`s rampant corruption, can compete on the level where justice is as cheap as chips, at the right price.

Nigeria`s grind to this day when confidence in its judiciary is at an all-time low has been slow but steady. It has barely faltered and the signs are that it will not be halted soon.

Every institution that depends on people can only be as good as the people staffing it or in the unlikely event that expectations are exceeded, slightly just better. This invariably means that no matter how well the legal or physical structures establishing any institution are, when the people who staff it lack intellect but especially integrity, not much can be achieved.  In many ways, this is the story of the Nigerian judiciary.

With practically every round of appointment made to the judiciary in Nigeria, the names are predictable. Those that make the list are often those who already have people currently serving in the judiciary or those who once served in the judiciary, or those who know one influential politician or another. This is the drill these days when competence and especially rectitude take the back seat when the venue of vultures gather around the carcass of justice in Nigeria.

Thus, the stories always swirl, especially in beer parlours and pepper soup joints where tongues easily come loose, about just how easy it is to call certain numbers and net certain verdicts for the right prices.

Whether this happens with regularity or not is secondary to the devastating effect the perception that it does has on justice delivery in Nigeria. This is because justice is rooted in confidence.

Under a federal government that has only thinly disguised its desire to muzzle the judiciary and state governors who do everything to control the judiciary in their states, Nigerians hardly ever know what to believe when the elephants of the executive and judiciary tangle. A classic case was in 2019 when former Chief Justice of Nigeria Mr. Walter Onnoghen was swept out of office in a whirlwind jamboree that found ample theatre in the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

While the judiciary has underperformed save for some startling moments of judicial clarity, the system has lavishly contributed in setting up the judiciary to fail. A country where the funds meant for the judiciary which should be independent and impartial are leashed to the executive can expect Nigerias notoriously manipulative politicians to seek to control such a key constituent of the countrys administration by withholding funds. This has largely been the case, and so at the end of the day, the judiciary in many parts of Nigeria find themselves struggling to serve justice to Nigerians.

In crumbling courtrooms where lice compete with lizards for space under sweltering conditions, the falcon of justice often cannot hear its falconer.

It is against the backdrop of this that it is heartening that the Enugu State Governor Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi recently inaugurated 34 model customary court buildings newly constructed by his administration across the 17 local government areas of the state.

Paying glowing tributes to the governor for what he described as one of the governor`s unprecedented infrastructural interventions in the state judiciary, an elated Mr. George Nnamani, the President Customary Court of Appeal, Enugu State said in a statement that “The 34 model courts were erected two per local government area to give a new lease of life and relevance to the Customary Courts in line with international best practices.”

This is no doubt impressive. This laudable project by the administration of Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi would prove such a boost, not just for the state judiciary but also the government`s rural development policy.

In choosing to revamp the infrastructure of customary courts in his state, Mr. Ugwuanyi chose well given that the customary court is traditionally on the lower rungs of the judicial ladder in Nigeria and is often neglected in spite of the crucial roles it plays is serving a justice that recognizes the culture of the people.

If only other Nigerian governors, especially those from the southeast will take a cue, and leave something as priceless for their people instead of constantly preoccupying themselves with the things that fail to reward but ruin in the long run.

For many of them time is running away with their legacy or a lack of it and justice will always remember all its saboteurs.

Kene Obiezu,

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Professor Jideofor Adibe


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