Setting an Agenda for the New High Court Judges in Edo State.

By:Douglas Ogbankwa Esq. 

The Selection Process ,Appointment  and Swearing of the 8 New High Court Judges in Edo State has come and gone,with its furore and intrigues.

It is time My Noble Lords to Settle  down to duty. While congratulating My Noble Lords for being found worthy to be given the mantle to preside over the affairs of their fellow men and Women ,I make bold to say that the  journey  ahead will be one that will determine  the shape of the Edo State Judiciary  for years to come.

It is in this light  that I lend  my voice in highlighting  some of the indispensable  essentials that My Lords should  embrace to do Justice  to all with out affection or ill will as indicated in the Oath of Office for Judicial  Officers which My Noble Lords swore to on Monday the 18th of January, 2020,which are succinctly surmised as follows:

1.Doing Justice to all and Standing for the Oppressed when the Law is on their Side. 

It was Chief Gani Fawehimwin SAN that posited before his demise thus :

The Legal Profession  ought to be and must strive to remain the Dependable Bastion of hope ,help and succour  for the repressed ,the oppressed and the suppressed  in Our Society

My Lords stand in a prime place between man and God to ensure that Justice is done to all ,whether rich or poor ,young or old ,educated or non educated. The Justicia-the symbol of Justice has its eyes blind folded as a metaphor  for the disintetestedness  and unbiased nature of a Judge.

As High Court Judges,  My Noble Lords, your status is one that like Caesar's Wife must  be above board .The Company of My Lords and the places My Lords visit,should therefore be restricted .This is to remove any suspicion  of bias in any issue that may come before My Lords.

This has been an issue and the fact that people do not talk  about it openly does not mean that it is ok. A lot murmur in silence ,but it is a live issue that  forms  opinions of Members of the Bar .

I humbly and most respectfully call on My Noble Lords to apply the Law in favour of the Poor the same way My Lords will do in favour of the Rich .This ensures certainty  of the Law and  justicia  omnibus -Justice for all.

2. The Deployment of Technology  for the Seamless Administration  of Justice .

In this period  of the Covid-19 Pandemic,My Noble Lords are expected to spurn up ingenuity  in ensuring that Justice Delivery becomes seamless and with out  hassles.My Lords should as a Matter of urgency ensure that My Lords Registries infuse technology in its activities. Text Messages should be sent to all Lawyers as soon as it is  ascertained  that the Court is not Sitting. 

If My Lords had 15 Matters in the Court's Cause List ,it would only cost the Court  just N60:00k (Sixty Naira ), to send Text Messages  to all the Lawyers in the Matters ,to indicate that the Court is not Sitting .This will save the Lawyers Time ,Money or even the dangers on the road.There was a case some where in Nigeria, when a Lawyer died in an accident  on his way to Court .When his Colleagues  got to the same Court the Court did not Sit and just a N4:00k (Four Naira) Text Message, would have saved the life of that Lawyer

We pray My Lords should  cause the Registry of Court to send the Cause List to  Officials  of the Bar on Whatssap and other Platforms, who will in turn  post same on the Bar's Social Media Platforms. This will help in synergy  between the Courts and the Bar.

The Courts should also embrace Virtual  Court Sittings and dispense with  innocuous Motions and Matters for Mention Virtually. This can only be achieved  if there was Independence  of the  Judiciary due to the gargantuan finances needed to deploy  the IT Infrastructure. To this end ,the  Executive must obey the Nigerian  Constitution  and leave the finances of the Judiciary alone .The Governor has sworn to an Oath of Office to Obey the Constitution. Section 121  (3) of the Constitution  of the Federal  Republic of Nigeria ,1999(As Amended) stipulates thus :

Every monies standing to the Credit of the Constitution  shall be paid directly  to the Heads  of Court

As Clear and unambiguous  as this Section of the Constitution  is , Governors in Nigeria  are observing this provision  in breach .As stipulated by H.E. Governor  Godwin Obaseki,Governor of Edo State ,in November, 2019 ,when the then Chief Judge of Edo State ,My Lord ,the Hon. Justice Efe Frances Ikpomwen FCJEI  ,paid a Farewell  visit  to the Governor, he said :

Budgeting is Governance. Its he who controls the Budget that Governs  a Place

It is in the light of this ,I call on the Governor  to stay clear of the funds of the Judiciary in Edo State . It is against the Principle  of fair Hearing for you to control the funds of the same Courts in which cases are pending against you or in which you have filed cases !Let us call a spade a spade.

3.Speedy Administration of Justice.

We call on My Lords , to ensure that cases do not linger for too long. To this end ,My Lords should ensure that Lawyers do not get  away with frivolous  adjournment and frivolous Applications  that will weary the Courts.

We  as Lawyers demand alot  from our Judges and we should be able to do more to assist My Lords to dispense justice fairly. We also call for the  fast tracking  of the activities  of the Registry, as I see no reason while Rulings and Judgments should not be collected the same day it is delivered or at most the next day .Justice is delayed is Justice denied .

My Obervation on the Appointment Process.

The Truth is Bitter

I observe that there is no gender balance in the recent appointment of 8 New  Judges  in Edo State .We have 7 Female Judges and one Male Judge appointed .This is not fair to the Male Folks in the Legal  Profession.

Also ,there was not even one appointment  from the Private Bar ,all the Appointments were made either from the Judiciary or the Ministry  of Justice .This is also not fair to the Private Bar .This should never repeat itself. I say no more .

It was William Shakespeare  that said in his Play Romeo and Juliet ,that All is Fair in love and at War

On the whole ,I Congratulate My Noble Lords on My Lord's Elevation to the Bench  and I Pray that God will give My Lords the wisdom to adjudicate  over the intricate issues tMy Lords will come across in the course of duty. 

There is nothing more Prestigious, for you to be selected from among members of the  noblest of all  noble professions to  preside over the affairs of your fellow men and women

-Prince Collins Benson OGIEGBAEN, AICMC,immediate Past Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association,

Benin Branch (The Lion Bar).

About the Author. 

Douglas Ogbankwa Esq.,a Benin Based Legal Practitioner is the Convener of the Transparency Bar Initiative  and the Vanguard for the Independence  of the Judiciary.

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