Full Text of Speech delivered By the NBA Chairman Gboko Branch On Behalf Of All the Branches in Benue State on the Occasion of the 2023/2024 Legal Year Celebrations
SPEECH BY THE NBA CHAIRMAN GBOKO BRANCH ON BEHALF OF ALL THE BRANCHES IN BENUE STATE ON THE OCCASION OF THE 2023/2024 LEGAL YEAR CELEBRATIONS HELD ON MONDAY THE 18TH SEPTEMBER, 2023 AT THE HIGH COURT PREMISES MAKURDI BENUE STATE.
1.0 His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Benue State, Rev. Fr. Dr. Hyacinth Iormem Alia Ph.D.
His Excellency the Deputy Governor of Benue State.
The speaker Benue State House of Assembly
My lord the Chief Judge of Benue State, Honourable Justice Maurice Ahemba Ikpambese Chor.
My lord the President, Customary Court of Appeal Benue State Hon. Justice Cosmos A. Idye, OFR.
My lords the Judges of the Benue State High Court and Customary Court of Appeal.
The Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Benue State.
The Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) here present.
The Management Staff of the High Court of Justice, Customary Court of Appeal and Judicial Service Commission, Benue State.
Members of the Judicial Service Commission, Benue State.
Their Worships, Magistrates of the Benue State Judiciary.
The Chairmen, EXCOs and members of the Nigerian Bar Association Gboko, Makurdi and Otukpo Branches.
Staff of the Benue State Judiciary
Gentlemen of the Press.
Ladies and gentlemen.
1.1 Today marks another significant day in the historic events and mileage of our Benue State Judiciary in commemorating the 2023/2024 legal year which began on the 15th September, 2023 till today the 18th September, 2023.
As we all know, the theme of this legal year celebration is “The Judiciary and the future of Electoral Process in Nigeria” This theme could not have come at a better time than now when the Judiciary all over the Nation is facing the tornadoes and the cyclones of Electoral Litigation as well as political cases emanating from the conduct of the 2023 General Elections in our dear Country Nigeria.
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1.2 My accolades to the entire crew on the planning committee for setting up the right theme at the right time.
1.3 May I humbly use this opportunity to congratulate your lordships on the success of this legal year celebration and the remarkable achievements so far recorded on our higher bench within the State and the Nation at large.
1.4 Permit me to also use this opportunity to once again congratulate the Chief Judge of Benue State, Honourable Justice M.A. Ikpambese for the successful conduct and celebration of his first legal year in new robes as the Chief Judge of Benue State.
1.5 I am also humbled by His lordship’s gesture, for finding me worthy to perform this noble task of presenting the speech on behalf of the 3 branches of the Nigerian Bar Association, namely; Gboko, Makurdi and Otukpo Branches respectively.
1.6 I also join fate with all the attendees of this ceremony in thanking the Almighty God our creator, the maker of heaven and Earth who in his infinite mercy has accorded us with the necessary protection to cross over in the new legal year having witnessed the previous ones successfully.
2.0 My lords, the tripartite of the Benue Bar applauds the entire judiciary in Benue State for their doggedness in upholding the tenets of justice and professionalism despite the daunting challenges truncating the smooth workings and operations of the Judiciary herein Benue State.
2.1 I still maintain in clear terms that, we have no reservations in passing our votes of confidence in the Benue State Judiciary. However, this is not to say that there is 100% sanity in the system.
2.2 This legal year celebration has offered a grand opportunity for our revered Bench, the official and the private Bar, to brainstorm on a theme tagged, “The Judiciary and the Future of Electoral Process in Nigeria”.
2.3 We earnestly commend the resource persons viz the discussants, the panelist, the contributors and all the participants for according this event with the requisite aura and glamour.
2.4 The end product of this legal year celebration is for all of us to chart a new course for the actualization of a more efficient judicial system capable of transforming and strengthening the electoral process in Nigeria vide it’s constitutional role of administering justice in order to fix Nigeria right in attaining a stable social-economic and political order for future growth and prosperity for all her citizens.
2.5 This is also in tandem with the 2023 theme at the Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association Titled “GETTING IT RIGHT, CHARTING THE COURSE FOR NIGERIA’S NATION BUILDING”.
2.6 My lords, permit me to state emphatically herein, that the methodological and conceptual task of Nation building as well as efficient administration of the justice system is by and large a collective responsibility for all and sundry.
3.0 With the above concept in mind, I crave your lordships indulgence to allow me embark upon a voyaged of exploration by x-raying the status of our Benue State Judiciary as it stands today with specific emphasis in the areas of, its constitutionally adorned financial autonomy, its manpower and the infrastructure.
3.1 It is no longer history that one of the major plagues afflicting the smooth running of the State Judiciary is the non-implementation of financial autonomy granted to judiciary by virtue of Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
3.2 The reason for persistent refusal to grant the state judicial autonomy in my view, can best be explained by those who chosed to rule the state in defiance of the constitution as well as their oaths of office and I say no more.
3.3 Be that as it may, we all hail President Mohammad Buhari when he took a bold step to sign the Executive Order No. 10 of 2020 for the full implementation of the financial autonomy for states judiciary.
3.4 It is also plausible to note that some State Governors have chosen the path of honor by ensuring the full fledge implementation of financial autonomy to the judiciary in their states thereby freeing their judicial arms of Government from the shackles of political and social economic downturns.
3.5 I make bold to state here that, Plateau State is a shining example where their judiciary is enjoying the full fruits of financial automy and today, Plateau State has one of the world class Judicial Complex with the ultra modern state of the arts furniture which has become a tourist attraction in Nigeria.
3.6 Hence Benue State was carved out of Plateau State, may I also use this opportunity and appeal to His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Benue State, Rev. Fr. Dr. Hyacinth Iormem Alia to blaze the trail on the full implementation of the financial automy for the Judiciary in Benue State.
4.0 In terms of manpower, the reality on ground is that, Benue State Judiciary is grossly understaffed. This unfortunate situation has placed our judiciary into a menace of being a dumping ground for casual staff. The recent move by the Chief Judge of Benue Sate to downsize the number of casual staff seem to have generated some loud cry and hue because the exercise ended up leaving some Courts with either one or two support staff performing all rounding duties either as Registrar, Clerk, Bailiff or cleaner and security. This is not a healthy situation in any given sector or workplace. We therefore call on the Chief Judge and relevant authorities to take urgent steps in addressing this shortage of manpower.
4.1 My lord, the infrastructural deficit in our Courts today is appalling to the extent that a glimpse at some of our Courts in the State today particularly the one’s in rural areas and some urban centres reveals the captivating sights of shrines inhibited by some traditional idol worshipers. Sad enough, it is our learned colleagues that man most of these Courts.
4.2 This same scenario afflicts The Ministry of Justice Area Offices across the state.
4.3 The deplorable working environments of our Courts today has in no small measure diminished the integrity and dignity of those Courts in the public glare thereby rendering most of our Judges and Magistrates vulnerable and susceptible to all manner of unwholesome practices ranging from absenteeism to persistent late attendance at work, exorbitant and outrageous charges for visit to locus, as well as imposition of High Levies on litigants including their Counsel as cost of writing materials and procurement of Court files and tags with the usual complaint that the Headquarter has failed to supply same.
My lord, if this trend is not urgently checked, it will be impossible for the poor man to have access to Justice in our Courts today.
4.5 My lord, this new legal year requires a total cleansing and upgrading of the system in order to give Benue State Judiciary a face lift it deserves.
4.6 My lord, we sincerely applaud the cordial working relationship between the Bar and the Bench which has been yielding fruits and bountiful harvest thereby elevating our state to the topmost ladder of the Nation’s Judicial hierarchy having produced a Chief Judge of the Nation, Justices of the Supreme Court as well as the Court of Appeal while the Private Bar can proudly boast of Fifteen Senior Advocates of Nigeria in the state as of today. We hope that many more doors will be opened as we celebrate this new legal year.
4.7 We also pray that our Judiciary shall continue to rise from glory to glory and the Official Bar shall continue to wax stronger and stronger as long as the synergy between the Bar and the Bench is sustained.
4.8 I wish to immensely thank my lord for the opportunity granted me to make this presentation and wish the Benue State Judiciary greater heights as we enter into a new legal year.
Many thanks and God bless you all.
Benjamin Bem Nyam, Esq.
Chairman, NBA Gboko Branch,
For and on behalf of all the Branches in Benue State.