The Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has declared that the clampdown on judges by the Federal Government was aimed at weakening the Justice system to lay the grounds for the wholesale politicization of the sector.
He stated that the “systematic intimidation of the judiciary by the federal government” had nothing to do with “its dubious and much-discredited fight against corruption in the judiciary”.
Speaking during the Special Court Session to mark the opening of the 2017/2018 Legal Year, the governor said that the Federal Government is guilty of impunity, and constitutes threat to rule of law and impartial dispensation of Justice.
He said: “The danger in the incremental politicization of the judiciary has started manifesting in the poor quality of justice from the election tribunals where judges are appointed and directed to execute pre-determined results, and also in the quality of the Court of Appeal, where seniority, proven competence and integrity are blatantly passed over for partisan affiliations in the appointment or elevation of judges to that court.
“When all is said and done, let us not forget that Nigeria is still a nation of laws and not of strong men. While the Federal Government is guilty of impunity, the greatest threats to the rule of law and the independence of our judiciary are the judges who lack the courage to defend our collective rights to an impartial judicial system or compromise their oaths in order to remain in office.”
Wike noted that the present federal government operates in denial of the fact that the judiciary is a separate arm of government, which must be unreservedly respected, protected and preserved for the sustainable development of the country.
He alleged that since 2015, the country had not seen any single initiative from the federal government to either reform or correct real or perceived inefficiencies in the nation’s judicial system.
According to him: “We continue to witness an insidious erosion of the rule law and the independence of the judiciary through a combination of vile threats, unwarranted interferences and opportunistic pressures on judges in a manner and scale never seen before in the political history of this country.
“Indeed, judges appears to have been intimidated to the point where some now find it very uncomfortable even to attend official State functions with Governors for fear of being blacklisted thereafter and eventually punished.”
Highlighting the achievements of his administration in the Justice Sector, the governor said that his administration has built new courts and renovated existing courts.
His words, “Just two months ago, we flagged off the residential housing scheme for judicial officers, including those serving at the Federal level so that our judges can have the peace of mind to do their work in their own comfortable homes for life.
“Today, I am happy to announce that we have equally designed a similar housing scheme for magistrates, which construction we shall flag off in a couple of weeks”.
In her address, the Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Adama Iyaye-Laminkara stated that the Rivers State Judiciary will continue to uphold justice in the state as she lauded the governor for his regular release of funds for the administration of Justice.
Also speaking, the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice , Emmanuel Aguma SAN urged the Police and other security agencies to operate within the ambit of the law.