Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has explained why his administration is providing personal homes to judicial officers of the big oil and gas state. Accotding to him, the gesture will serve as good motivation to resist enticements of all forms capable of compromising the rectitude of their judicial functions.
Wike was speaking in Port Harcourt, the state capital, 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.
While 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, the governor pointed out that the law will 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.”
Governor Wike explained that all judicial officers of Rivers origin serving in the State and Federal judicial system are entitled to benefit from the accommodation that should be provided.
According to him, the initiative is novel and different from what Lagos State had done that only catered for their judges servicing within the state and not extended to the federal judicial system, adding, ‘’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 any body 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 state Judicial Institute Law No. 8 of 2021, Governor Wike explained that the efforts are geared to support the National Judicial Council (NJC) through the National Judicial Institute (NJI) that have the responsibility of training judiciary officers and other judiciary staff.
According to him, the state government will, by the law, see to it that, at least twice in a year, judges, magistrates and other judiciary staff access trainings that will acquaint them with the tools of their jobs.
“Nobody should misconstrue that there is a conflict. It is not our responsibility to appoint judges, and train them, no. It is the sole responsibility of the National Judiciary Council through the NJI to do so. What we have done here is that, assuming they are getting two times training in a year from the NJI, there is nothing wrong for the Rivers State Government sending them for more training.
“That’s what we are trying to do with this scheme. So that, nobody will say, for this year, I didn’t attend any training either outside the country or within the country. The institute will make sure that they bring people who are experienced to train them in their various jobs. But of administrative and judicial officers.”
Governor Wike thanked the lawmakers for the approval given the state government to take a loan to start the construction of 27 km Chokocho-Igbodo road in Etche, the Oyigbo -Afam road, and the law school project that is already ongoing plus other projects.
The governor said already the contract for the construction of the Judicial Institute in the state have been awarded and it is expected to be commissioned during the third year of the second tenure anniversary of his administration.
“It is important that, by the time we leave, what any government coming, is to see how they can carry out the maintenance culture. We have done quite a lot in the health, roads, education so who ever is coming has no business to start new foundation. The foundation has been laid for the incoming administration.”
Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Ikuinyi-Owaji Ibani said a good judicial system should avail both the rich and the poor access to justice, stating that the two laws assented to by Governor Wike provide the foundation that will serve as critical elements in the administration of justice in the State.
According to him, the major enabler of good governance is a well developed legal system that equals the status of the civilisation seen in the polity.
“What you’re doing in providing infrastructure to make our state make progress on all fronts, not necessarily on one front is novel. On behalf of the house of assembly, let me thank you.
“We might not know because we are also part players on the scene today but when we leave, we will be able to look back and say, as members of Rivers State House of Assembly, we worked under Governor Nyesom Wike.
“We urge you to do more. We will continue to partner without hesitation, without recourse to whatever sentiment anybody would have expressed as long as we are doing it in the interest of the people and the state.”
Presenting the bills for signing, Majority Leader of the House Martins Amaewhule said the assembly has considered the two bills with expeditious attention because they are considered to be in the best interest of the state.