ameachiRivers State judiciary has vowed that it would never again succumb to political interferences from external forces nor allow the subjugation of the judicial processes by political elements.
Acting Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Daisy Okocha, who made the vow at the 2015/2016 New Legal Year, the first of two years following the closure of the courts by the then state government headed by Governor Chibuike Amaechi, said the judiciary in the last dispensation was in disarray as it had high volume of pending cases.
The Chief Judge disclosed that she inherited over 19, 000 cases, but regretted that the case files of the majority of the pending cases were either partly or completely vandalised, missing or kept in manner that it would be impossible to deduce anything judiciously meaningful.
Nigerian Pilot Saturday’s findings revealed that no fewer than10, 000 case files were mutilated, burnt or removed in a manner that clearly indicated the intent to undermine the prosecution of justice.
Our investigation reveals most of the mutilated or burnt case files were political cases or those that in some ways would have direct bearings on the political decisions of the characters therein.
It would be recalled the Rivers State judiciary was shut down in August 2013, following the retirement of Justice Iche Ndu, a development that paved way for what some referred to as unnecessary struggle for the leadership of the state judiciary.
The appointment of a new Chief Judge generated a lot of political tension as contending interests interfered in the processes leading to crippling of the judiciary.
Respite seems to have come early January when the National Publicity Secretary of Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, JUSUN, Comrade Kayode Igbarago, announced that the eight-month strike of the union in the state had been called off thus paving way for the courts to be opened.
But that was a mirage, instead of relief the courts were further plunged into deepening crises as the political gladiators dug their feet deeper in what turned out to be APC, PDP struggle to control the judiciary.
As a result the state judiciary was starved of funds.
Justice Daisy Okocha regretted the mess the judiciary was subjected to stressing that it was unnecessary that the embarrassing political intrigues eroded judicial practice.
Speaking in same vein, Governor Nyesom Wike, has declared that never again will the people of the state be denied access to justice in the form of the closure of courts.
Wike expressed regret that the independence of the judiciary was compromised during the last administration as they were compelled to go cup in hand to beg the executive arm for funds.
He gave declared that his administration has instituted self-accounting status for the judiciary and as well established the independence of the judiciary.
According to him, his administration released N350 million to the state High Court for capital projects , N150 million to the state Customary Court of Appeal and another N200 million to the High Court for additional capital projects. He said additional capital funds would also be approved for the Customary Court of Appeal.
“As a political scientist and lawyer, I appreciate the interplay of law and politics in a democratic setting and in particular, the pre-eminence of law in social engineering and achieving good governance.
“It is the knowledge acquired from these disciplines that have made me appreciate the judiciary as one critical area for the success of our administration.
“Let me remind us all of our collective responsibility to respect and uphold the core values of the rule of law, equity and separation of powers,” Wike said.