The Delta State Judiciary has marked the opening of the 2022/2023 legal year with stakeholders in the administration of justice calling for an increased budgetary provision to surmount enormous financial challenges facing the third arm of government.

The Chief Judge of Delta State, Honorable Justice Tessy Diai, made the call today while presiding over the Special Court Session to herald the new legal year in Delta State at the High Court of Justice, Asaba.

Justice Diai, who chronicled the achievements of the state judiciary during the period under review including the construction of the new six-floor High Court Complex which is 70% completed, procurement of office furniture and equipment for some courts across the state among others, expressed concern over the dwindling capital budget of the judiciary since the Covid-19 era.

She disclosed that nearly the entire capital budget of the High Court of Justice in the 2021/2022 legal year was applied to the completion of the new High Complex even as she expressed confidence that the project would be completed, furnished, and commissioned by the governor soon.

On the essence of the formalities to usher in the new legal year, the number one judicial officer of the state explained: "Beyond the ceremonial formalities associated with the new legal celebration, the occasion also offers the judiciary for self-appraisal, stock taking and dissemination of information to the legal community and the general public with regard to its activities in the preceding year."

According to the chief judge, despite the decline of budgetary provision, the third arm, through prudent management of an austere budget, has procured official vehicles for some departments of the High Court to ease movement and enhance the efficiency of their jobs which required frequent visits to various judicial divisions and managerial districts across the state.

On the policy of her administration to key the state judiciary into Information Communication Technology (ICT) in order to eliminate delays in the trial of custody cases occasioned by the non-production of inmates in courts for trial, Justice Dial stated that the state judiciary has purchased equipment for e-filing and virtual hearing. 

The stewardship report of the judiciary in the period under review presented by the Chief Judge indicated that three judicial officers for the state High Court and one for the Customary Court of Appeal were appointed, adding that the process of appointing seven new judges was ongoing. 

On the revenue-generating profile, Justice Diai revealed that a total of N549,152,217.85 (Five hundred and forty-nine million, one hundred and fifty-two thousand, two hundred and seventeen naira, eighty-five kobo) was generated.

Lack of adequate funding, basic infrastructure, official vehicles for judicial officers of the lower bench, and shortage of manpower among others, were some of the challenges listed by the chief judge confronting the third arm of government.

While appreciating Governor Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa for his immense support to the judiciary, including priority attention given to the new High Complex, the chief judge implored the executive and the legislative arms to increase the budgetary provision of the judiciary to enable it effectively and effectually carry out its constitutional duties.

The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Isaiah Bozimo, Esq. stated that the Ministry of Justice, Public Prosecutor and Government's Chief Legal Advisor have taken steps to strengthen it by launching a "Legal Skills Competency Framework" to ensure that all legal officers receive best-in-class training in advocacy, advisory work, among others.

Mr. Bozimo disclosed that the discussion was at an advanced stage to establish an online case law and legislative database to offer free public access to all Delta State laws and the High Court's judgments even as he pointed out that the review of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law was underway.

On their part, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) in the state and the Nigerian Bar Association, Delta State advocated for more bar and bench synergy to improve on the quality of justice delivery.

Former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Charles Ajuyah, SAN, who spoke on behalf of BOSAN, stated that the Body would continue to engage the Attorney General and critical stakeholders in the administration of justice on the issue of funding of the judiciary. 

Speaking, the chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Asaba branch, Mr. Precious Nwadimuya, commended the Chief Judge for commencing the Bar Bench forum 30 days after the request by Forum of NBA chairmen in the state, and in the inclusiveness of the bar in the process of appointment of judges in the state.

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