…As CJN unveils 20 duplexes in Port Harcourt
By Egufe Yafugborhi
GOVERNOR Nyesom Wike says Rivers State Government under his watch would end the era where judges retire without homes of their own.
Wike made the declaration Thursday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State where Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Tanko Muhammad as special guest commissioned 20 owner occupier duplexes built by Rivers government for Judges of Rivers origin serving in State and Federal Judiciaries.
He said, “Given the constitutional restriction on legal practice, post legal service years could be miserable for judges who were unable to buy or build their own homes before leaving the service.
“With our policy, the State now bears the full responsibility to providing befitting accommodation for all judicial officers of Rivers State origin beyond their service years for life.
“The State Government spent N6billion to build, furnish, and landscape this estate. The Government also reserves interest to buy back any flat and reallocate to other judges to preserve exclusivity of the estate for judicial officers alone.
“Twenty-three Judges opted for cash payment and have been given the approved sum of N150 million each to build and have their own houses. Cumulatively, the State Government disbursed the sum of N3.6billion to the beneficiaries.
“The policy covers all former Chief Judges, Presidents of Customary Courts of Appeal including Justice Peter Agumagu. All retired Judges in service when the policy was made. Current Chief Judge of the state will have her accommodation built before retirement in May, 2021.”
The Governor harped on, “Need to guarantee judicial independence and secure effective administration of justice. These are the overriding considerations for the unprecedented investment we have made in our judicial system.
“I cannot think of any State Government with similar welfare scheme we have made. This will have a profound and positive impact on judicial officers. We have moved our Judiciary from the valley of neglect to an enviable hilltop of independence, capacity, and effectiveness,” he stated.
The CJN, Muhammad represented by Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court noted that Judges would be more confident to dispense justice if they have good shelter and welfare.
He weighed that, “Lagos and Rivers States rank among the most litigious States. The Implication is that manpower and materials are perennially stretched far beyond limit to attend to the large number of cases filed daily.
“That explains the enormity of work before Judges. A good car, shelter and good welfare package are some of those things that can serve as magic wand to bring out the best from them.
“Whenever we deliberately or inadvertently toil with the welfare of judicial officers, we are unconsciously inflicting a debilitating wound on the conscience of the nations.
“We are not ignorant of Governor Wike’s huge investment to improve the infrastructure of federal courts. You are today also giving to Judges a life long accommodation on owner-occupier basis.”
The project was named Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma Judges Quarters in Port Harcourt, in honor of the late Rivers Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.