By Innocent Anaba
THE people of Umuchukwu, Orumba South Local Government Area of Anambra State, have lamented the abandonment of the High Court complex in Umuchukwu, built and donated to the state Judiciary by an illustrious son of the community and Las Vegas United States based, Professor of Anestheology, philanthropist and multi-millionaire, Dr. Godwin Maduka.
The edifice, which was commissioned by Governor Willie Obiano eight months, has been without activities despite promises made at the inauguration that it will assist in the quick dispensation of justice in the area, the state and the country. At the commissioning of the court in December 2016, Governor Obiano, said that his administration, through its think home campaign, aims at mobilizing the required support for the development of the state.
Curiously, eight months after its completion and the commissioning, the High Court edifice is unused. Investigation shows that majority of the people in the district are not happy with this development, and are asking questions.
According to an indigene of Umuchukwu, who pleaded anonymity, “We find it strange that this world class high court, built and handed over to the state judiciary more than eight months ago is yet to be in use. This is another attempt to deprive people in this part of Anambra the opportunity to have easy access to justice. We have to travel far to the high court in Awka for cases that could easily have been dispensed with here and it is not funny at all. The people of Orumba South see this as clear injustice, we have hardly had any top position in this state since its creation, from Governor, to Secretary of State, Chief Judge or even Speaker. Now this chance to enjoy one of the best judicial infrastructure is being denied us.”
It is recalled that in 2013, the state Chief Judge, Justice Peter Umeadi, had while inaugurating a Chief Magistrates’ Court in Achalla, Awka North Local Government Area of the state, solicited for communities’ support for the establishment of more courts in the state. The court was built by the Achalla community. The chief judge said, on the occasion, that the collaboration would guarantee easy dispensation of justice at the grassroots level.
Justice Umeadi, noted that “There is the need for an enabling environment in which citizens will have the opportunity to ventilate their grievances through the courts at minimum cost. This philosophy has led us to re-equip and re-fit all the high and most of the magistrates’ courts in the state.”
In answer to this clarion call, Dr. Maduka, who is a Medical Director of Las Vegas Pain Institute and Medical Center, decided to partner the state government in the provision of multimillion-dollar community development projects in the judiciary, law enforcement and other sectors in the community.
Neglect of the judiciary
Notable among the projects were a 17 floor Medical Research Center, High Court Complex, Judges Quarters, Special Anti-Robbery Squad-SARS office building, Magistrate Court, Classroom blocks, Civic Center, among others. It is further recalled that Justice Umeadi, at the Pontifical Mass to mark the beginning of the 2016/2017 legal year, took a swipe at the governor for what he termed neglect of the judiciary.
Investigations revealed that Justice Umeadi who has the final say in the official opening of the High Court in Umuchukwu, Orumba South LGA, bases his reluctance to allow the full judicial operations at the complex, on some spurious petitions by some faceless individuals, in Umuchukwu community, who alleged that the town’s change of name imbroglio must be resolved before the Court starts to function.
But according to Dr. Maduka, “Situations like this make you feel that your efforts to make life better for your people are not appreciated. The fact that this state high court has not been put to use after so many months does not make me happy. I had plans to bring a number of my friends and investors to see some of these projects including the high court in operation. This will encourage them to invest in Nigeria. A state of the art court like that will impress foreign investors and make them know that justice can be done if anything negative happens to their investments. This is some of the reasons a lot of people in the diaspora are discouraged from investing back home.”
It was gathered that all due diligence were observed before the construction of the court commenced, as all necessary approvals were received from the state government. Justice Umeadi himself signed the authorization for the project, while the Judicial Service Commission also sent inspectors who gave approval for the completed multimillion-dollar edifice before it was commissioned.
Also curious is that the purported petition was written while the Judicial Complex was still under construction.
“So why did the Chief Justice not stop the construction, when he received the so-called petition? Why wait till millions of dollars has been spent and the project commissioned by the state governor?” Dr. Maduka queried.
Findings also revealed that Governor Obiano had written twice to Justice Umeadi to allow judicial proceedings commence at the court, but the Chief Judge remains adamant. It was also gathered that the name Umuchukwu had been approved through a referendum almost nine years back, under the Peter Obi administration.