Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
The executive arm of government in Abia State and its judiciary counterpart may be heading for a war path as the Chief Judge (CJ) of the state, Justice Theresa Uzoamaka Uzokwe, yesterday warned the state Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, against behaving in a certain way not acceptable to the judiciary.
The CJ gave the warning in her address at the opening ceremony of the 2016/2017 legal year. She did not disclose what the governor had done to warrant the public warning but added that if he continued in that manner as was the case the other day, he would continue to be publicly rebuked.
“Before I continue, let me use this opportunity to warn the governor of the state not to do what he did yesterday again and if he does it again, I will publicly warn him,” the CJ said.
The learned men of the bench and the bar as well as members of the public who were at the event were taken aback by the statement from the CJ but just as they primed their ears to hear the details of the apparent wrong doing by the state chief executive, the CJ stopped short of giving out anything.
Justice Uzokwe also complained that she was yet to get an official residence along with other senior colleagues as the residence meant for the CJ is presently in dilapidated condition hence she has been operating from Aba.
She further complained that the state judiciary lacked enough court halls with the magistrate courts in the state being the worse for it, thereby forcing the magistrates to share courts or rotate sittings.
According to the CJ, “There are seven court halls in the state judiciary headquarters, in Umuahia and we have 14 magistrates of different cadres sitting regularly at the state headquarters” hence the situation was becoming unbearable as congestion of cases has become a norm.
The Justice also expressed concern that the state judiciary was still operating in analogue in this era of information communication technology (ICT) and called for the computerisation of the entire operations of the state judiciary as applicable I modern societies.
Uzokwe regretted that though “typewriters are not very much in vogue in this modern time’, in Abia judiciary, they have become outmoded and unserviceable hence the need to change to embrace ICT.”
However, the state Deputy Governor, Ude Oko Chukwu, who represented his boss, said the government was aware of the problems facing the judiciary and called for concerted efforts to salvage the situation.
He specifically stated that the judiciary was presently engulfed in image problem as its integrity and reputation was being eroded by the day with the public confidence waning.
He announced that the state government had already approved N45,000 minimum wage for the judiciary workers with effect from May 2015.