By Blessing Ibunge
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has signed into law the state Judicial Institute Bill No. 8 of 2021, and the state Housing Scheme for Judicial Officers Bill No. 10 of 2021.
Signing the bills into law yesterday at the Government House in Port Harcourt, Wike said the Housing Scheme Law would provide personal homes to the judicial officers of the state extraction.
The governor said the law would also serve as good motivation to resist enticements of all forms capable of compromising the rectitude of their judicial functions.
The bills were passed into law recently by the state House of Assembly, and presented to the governor by the Majority Leader of the Assembly, Hon. Martins Amaewhule.
The governor pointed out that the law would contribute to promoting judicial independence and reducing all forms of corruption among judicial officers.
“The second bill, which I’ve assented to, has to do with the housing scheme. This is where I think that when we talk about autonomy, this is the main autonomy the judiciary should be talking about.
“And in carrying out judicial functions, one thing that gives the people hope is shelter. Part of the reasons why the people are corrupt is that they don’t have the opportunity to own a house where they can go back at retirement.
“So, for us as a government, we believe that one of the things that we do to stop corruption is to allow them own their house.
“I don’t want to see any Rivers judicial officer working in the Federal High Court, Industrial Court, Appeal Court or Supreme Court indicted for corruption. I don’t want to see that happen to any Rivers indigene.
“The government must from the day of appointment and on retirement ensure they have their homes. If they don’t want the house, then the government can pay them the due financial equivalent for it. But it is our own responsibility to do so,” he said.
Wike explained that all judicial officers of Rivers origin serving in the state and federal judicial system are entitled to benefit from the accommodation that should be provided.
According to him, the initiative is novel and different from what Lagos State had done, which only catered for their judges serving within the state, and not extended to the federal judicial system.
He added: “It’s one profession that the moment you’re retired, there’s nothing you can do about the practice of law. If a medical doctor retires from civil service, the medical doctor can go into private practice and own his or her own hospital.
“But as retired Jjudge, you’re not allowed by law to practice again after service. So, it is not only for judicial officers who are working in Rivers State but judicial officers who are from Rivers State also working at the federal courts.”
Speaking about the Rivers State Judicial Institute Law No. 8 of 2021, the governor explained that the efforts are geared towards supporting the National Judicial Council (NJC) through the National Judicial Institute (NJI) saddled with the responsibility of training judicial officers and other judiciary staff.