The story is not different at the Umuoba Uratta customary court in Owerri North which is housed in a dilapidated party office built in the late ‘80s
George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
Judiciary, as they say, is the last hope of the common man. But it is imperative that those saddled with the dispensing of justice have the conducive environment to perform the all-important role.
While efforts had been made to elevate the ambience of the various high courts in Imo State, the situation in several of the magistrate and customary courts is nothing to write home about. The level of dilapidation of the customary courts has become depressing as it invariably affect the dispensation of justice at that level.
Early last year, the ceiling of a customary court in Ezinhitte Mbaise caved in while the court was in session sending the judge, lawyers and others to scamper for safety. he court session was brought to an abrupt end.
The story is not different at the Umuoba Uratta customary court in Owerri North council area which is housed in a dilapidated party office built by the administration of former military junta, General Ibrahim Babangida in the late ‘80s when he decreed the defunct two party system – National Republican Party (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
When Daily Sun visited the place, the ceiling of the courtroom was held with a sheen cloth to prevent it from collapsing, while there was no electricity supply. The court also shares the building with the local government education authority.
The parlous situation was the same in almost all the customary courts in the state.
Lawyers have not only decried the current state of the magistrate and customary courts but also complained that besides the poor working environment that the welfare of the jurists was another matter altogether.
According to them, the welfare of the magistrates needed to be looked into by the government as many of them lacked official vehicles and even security.
Chairman of the Owerri branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Damian Nosike regretted that government has not done enough on the welfare of judges and magistrates in the state.
“Recently, a Magistrate, RC Oguh was killed by gunmen because he had no security attached to him who could have protected him. And displeased with such state of affairs, members of NBA Owerri and Orlu had to protest to draw attention of the state government to this ugly situation because the welfare and security of judges should be paramount to the government.
“Authorities should stop playing to the gallery with our lives and welfare of judges in the state because for the judges to perform their constitutional duties, they need conducive environment to do their duties and since they cannot speak for themselves or embark on protest, it is the duty of the NBA to speak on their behalf and the government must do something to lift the judiciary in the state,” he stated.
Another respondent, Mr. Julius Nwogu singled out the magistrates as an endangered species in Imo state, stressing that they were being treated with disdain, when in the real sense they should be important people in the society.
Nwogu linked the welfare of the judges and magistrates to the quality of justice dispensed.
“So, the state needs to do something on the welfare of judges because unlike lawyers who can engage in other businesses alongside their practice, these people cannot do that. Therefore, it is important for the state government to ensure that their welfare is well taken care of.”
Also, some of the judicial officers who spoke on condition of anonymity at the Orlu Magistrates Court lamented that even as workers that they were not regularly paid and that worse still, their salaries have been slashed by the government.