By Onozure Dania
THE commencement of 2017/2018 new legal year in Anambra State has brought to the fore the importance of rule of law in economic development. This was the message the Chief Judge of Anambra State, Justice Peter Umeadi brought home to Governor Willie Obiano. Specifically, he told the governor to make the judiciary one of the pillars of his administration’s wheel of development.
Justice Umeadi disclosed this in response to Governor Obiano’s speech in Awka during the Church service marking the commencement of the Anambra State Judiciary new legal year held at the Cathedral Church of Saint Faith Awka. Governor Obiano had in his speech said: “Based on constant promptings of my lord, the Chief Judge, I have elevated the judiciary as an enabler in the state. This means an increase in its budget which will be reflected next year.”
The Anambra State Wheels of Development comprised Pillars, Enablers and Outcomes and the governor stated that he has made the judiciary an enabler.
In a chat with journalists, Justice Umeadi said: “During the service to usher in the 2017/2018 legal year, I did hear the Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, say that, and I began to applaud, but I stopped when he said that he has now elevated the rule of law on the constant prodding of my humble self to one of the Enablers in Anambra State Development Wheel of Progress as they say.
The CJ said: “I stopped clapping because much as I appreciate what His Excellency has done by bringing out in public what I have been doing, trying to place the rule of law where it belongs; I do not think that he has gone far enough. If you look at the Anambra State Wheel of Development, they are broken into pillars, enablers and outcomes. The Governor has four pillars which spill over to Enablers and Outcomes. In my speech at the fifth Annual Chief Judges Dinner and Awards Night here in Awka on March 19, 2016, I did say something like this that a look would show that the Anambra State Wheel of Development is broken into pillars, enablers and outcomes. With humility, it is located that the pillars would need one cardinal, irreducible, irreplaceable and yet fundamental element of development which is the rule of law.
“Let the rule of law be added as one of the pillars, bringing the total number to five, the enablers for this new pillar of rule of law will be the erection of infrastructure for the dispensation of justice coupled with the systematic funding of the judiciary to enable training and retraining of the requisite manpower. The outcomes will include unenforced inflow of foreign investments, protection of intellectual property, enhanced standards of living and the tendency to explore the realms of science and technology,” Justice Umeadi said.
“Anambra State is building a structure that can survive without external funding including federal allocation at the centre. And that is what the Governor is saying, that his aim is to build Anambra State that those coming after him can pay salaries without external aid and he has done creditably well.
“As he said in the church, if you will remember, on September 23, he had paid salaries. As he stood there speaking on September 25, the federal allocation had not come and that is wonderful, in the whole of the country with the current economic challenges, Anambra State has not broken in the payment of salaries, pensions and emoluments to people.
“But then coming to what you are saying, if my persistence in drawing the attention of the governor to the rule of law has yielded fruits for him to bring us to an enabler and because of that, it is going to affect our budget and perhaps, the things we are doing in the judiciary will receive an upbeat the next financial year, and our budget will be higher, that is a wonderful thing to know. But then, if you understand even asking that the rule of law be made the fifth pillar is a contradiction in terms because the rule of law ought to be the first pillar. I give you an example; he is banking on influx of capital of investment from outside, to drive the economy of Anambra State. Now, the primary concern of every investor is when that dispute comes up which must come, how would he fare?
“If investors are assured that when they invest in Anambra State and they have an issue against the government itself, that they can quickly get justice where they have the better facts, then you don’t have to make any advertisements for them to come. Otherwise you can spend all the money you have advertising and nobody will show up, so at all times, it has shown that if you build up your justice delivery system in such a way that it could be trusted to be above corruption, to be speedy and for persons to come and win the big and mighty on issues like I have said which are clearly on their side, then you will be struggling for space to contain developers, to contain investors. That is the line which I have been selling to the governor.
“That for you to develop, for you to bring your dream of investors to come and invest in Anambra State, you must first of all strengthen your justice delivery system which is based on the rule of law, which by the way, it is fashioned, it is run only by the judiciary, nobody is exempt, that even the judiciary is also under the rule of law, So that if the judiciary does anything that is wrong, it will come under the weight of the law. The point is that as I started clapping and stopped, I am happy that the governor never gave me any hints that he was going to say that, it is good that he has been listening to me.”
“ I think the Governor is being blocked by a not too sure economic team who perhaps do not want to be seen to have gotten it wrong in the first place. You don’t move on like that, they got it wrong when they did not put the rule of law there as they should fix it and now that the Governor has come up to say he has now accepted that we should be enabler, they should help him more by saying to him this is number one pillar, they should go ahead and do that and if they do that, the judiciary should be the one smiling because if you move us now from Enabler to pillar, that means if he had wanted to give us times five, he will give us times 15 for us to get ready for him to achieve what he wants and there is no other way to do it. I am happy that the train has left the station, but it is still one quarter way, it cannot be said to be completely done until you make the rule of law the number one pillar in Anambra State, then let the Governor sit back and see what benefits it will come in half of his term” Speaking at the Legal year service on the topic Why are you in the judiciary at the time like this, why are you a lawyer, a Magistrate, a Judge, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in such a time as this?
The lord Bishop of the Diocese of Awka, Anglican Communion, Rt. Revd Alexander Chibuzo Ibezim admonished those in justice sector to rise and defend the rights of the poor and less privileged in the society. He said: “The passages we have read this morning here spoke the sermon and it remains for someone to verbalise it. There is a problem in the legislature; there is a problem in the judiciary and in the executive arm of government.