Friday, 3 November 2017

Sorry and Sordid State of Courts in C/River : the Task ahead of Justice Michael Edem —by Efio-Ita Nyok

Justice Michael Edem (L), dilapidated Okundi magistrates room(R) 
Efio-Ita Nyok|3 November 2017

Sequel to the 17th September Cross River State House of Assembly Judiciary Committee screening and the Thursday, 9th October 2017 swearing-in of His Lordship Justice Michael Edem as the substantive Chief Judge of Cross River State by His Excellency the Governor of Cross River, Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade, grapevine sources have confirmed that an awesome responsibility has been devolved on Justice Edem. 

In categorical terms, the numerous and enormous task revolves basically around Justice Edem 'repositioning the judiciary in Cross River State to meet international best practices'. 

First, there's a paucity of courts in Cross River especially as compared to other states in the Federation as well as judges; and secondly, the limited number of Courts in Cross River, infrastructure wise, are in a state of almost irredeemable decay. This is double tragedy. Hmmm! 

Concerning the first observation, I have learnt that new courts have to be created in Bakassi, Odukpani, Akpabuyo, Biase, Abi, Yala, Bekwarra and other local government areas. Shut down courts, like the High Court in Akpabuyo, which has been under lock and keys for over two years, have to be reopened. Again, Customary Courts of Appeal should also be created. I have learned that Cross River can only boast of about fourteen judges whereas a sister-state like Akwa Ibom has nothing less than forty judges! This has grave implications for the dispensing of justice particularly in terms of quality and quantity of judgment. 
Interior of Okundi Magistrate Court

Exterior of Okundi magistrate Court

Obudu Chief Magistrate Court 

Okundi Mag. Court with no roof

Sankwala Magistrate Court 

With respect of the second point raised, the state of our courts, infrastructurally inferring, I am afraid, is nothing to write home about: we have shrubs, grasses, having a field day right inside court rooms with open roofs; besides, the buildings are dilapidated almost beyond repair. More so, the existing, barely usable court rooms, are so small that it can't accommodate enough persons during sessions. This is the true state of our courts across the state.  

I am charging the newly sworn in justice, fondly referred to as 'power Mike' to look into these observations of mine. I'm also asking His Excellency the Governor to align with the new administration of 'power Mike' to effect an immediate repair. I am aware that very recently His Lordship had paid visits to some courts to assess them, I want to believe, it won't end there —that, something concrete will follow His Lordship's visit. A source confiding in me has said that 'If the administration of Honourable Justice Michael Edem addresses these issues, then Cross River Judiciary will benefit from the appointment of judges, magistrates, etc'. 

I want to believe that these candid observations and recommendations will reach both His Lordship and His Excellency. It's worth adopting. 

Efio-Ita Nyok
Is a Social Commentator 

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