The Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq on Monday said the administration is working on the much-awaited Judicial Autonomy Bill, saying the government is committed to the independence and well-being of the judicial staff.
The Governor spoke in Ilorin at an event commemorating the start of the 2021/2022 legal year, as organised by the Kwara State High Court Ilorin.
The ceremony also featured a valedictory court session for three retired Chief judges and introduction of newly appointed judges and presentation of the new High Court civil procedure rules 2021 to the Bar and Bench.
“I congratulate the Kwara state Judiciary on the commencement of the new legal year – 2021/2022.
I have no doubt that the New Year will bring good tidings.
For the new judges, we wish you well.
And for the retired judges it is not going to be a life retirement.
We thank you for the service to kwara, to Nigeria and to humanity.
We will also keep calling upon you to serve as you have been doing it in various committees,” he said.
“One big take away from me here today is that demand is being made for the government to do more for the judiciary.
The good thing is that we are going to sign the judiciary autonomy bill this coming year.
AbdulRazaq, who announced the non-interference of the Executive arm under his watch in the appointment of state Chief judges, said signing the autonomy bill does not take away the fact that the funds available for all the three arms of government to run government businesses are grossly inadequate.
He said his administration, on assumption of office, made sure that the sorry state of infrastructure in various Courts in the state became a thing of the past with the renovation of court rooms, adding that the government is also paying all allowances of the judges as and when due.
“The first thing I did was to come to this premises, meet the Chief Judge and try to see what the challenges were.
And we set out immediately to make sure we start reversing the infrastructural decay.
Another thing I met on the table was the issue of judges and I told the CJ: ‘that is your job, there will be no government’s interference in the appointment of the judges.
And the new judges you are seeing today earned it because the CJ knows the people he appointed,” he added.
The state Chief Judge, Durosinlohun Kawu, in his introductory remarks, said the occasion was in line with the tradition that takes stock of their performance in the outgone year with a view to renewing their dedication and ensuring a better and improved justice delivery in the coming year.
He said the last legal year featured the heat of COVID-19 pandemic and industrial action by the Judicial staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), which he said were two major setbacks to the judicial functions, asking all litigants and the general public to bear with their inability to meet their expectations.
The chief judge commended the state Governor for committing the government’s efforts to strengthen the manpower of Judiciary, which he said they needed to achieve quick and efficient administration of justice.
“As soon as His Excellency Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq assumed office, he appointed five (5) new High Court judges which represents the second highest number of such in the history of Kwara State and brought the number of High Court judges in the state to an all-time high number of 21,” he said.
“I must commend the uncommon show of statesmanship and independent mindedness exhibited by Your Excellency throughout the process that led to the selection, recommendation and appointment of the five judges for the High Court.
Your Excellency’s commitment to the principle of separation of power and non-interference in the affairs of the Judiciary, no doubt, contributed immensely to the successful outcome of that process.
He listed some of the achievements of the present administration in the state Judiciary to include rehabilitation of Area and Magistrate courts in Centre Igboro and Sango, both in Ilorin; Gwanara and Kaiama (Kwara North); and Omu-Aran in the Southern part of the state; purchase of new power generating set for the High Court complex Ilorin; payment of furniture and wardrobe allowances of Magistrates and Area court judges; sponsorship of medical treatment of some judges who faced various health challenges; and purchase of new vehicles for five newly appointed judges among others.
He pledged the continued cooperation of the Judiciary with “other branches of government for the greater good of the people of the state.
The state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Jawondo implored all judges to keep abreast of time and be conversant with the technological developments in the judicial process.
While acknowledging the integrity of the retired judges, Jawondo advised all judges to watch out for different corruptible ways that some people seek to purchase judgement, noting that corruption does not start and end with taking bribes but includes name dropping and influence peddling.
He said, apart from the government’s preparedness to grant autonomy to the Judiciary, his Ministry is considering the review of certain state Laws such as Administration of Criminal Justice Law to meet the current reality and address abuse of some provisions.
On behalf of other retired judges, Justice Mathew Adewara thanked AbdulRazaq for his confidence and support for the judicial branch of government, and for finding them worthy to serve in various judicial panels of inquiry set up in the last two years in the state.
He saluted the leadership qualities of Justice Kawu and his concerns for the welfare of judges and entire staff, adding that the love and comradeship he and his colleagues had enjoyed in office would not be forgotten.
The retired three Chief judges that were honoured at the occasion for their outstanding performance while in the service are Justice Mathew Adewara, Justice Maria Ajibola Afolayan, and Justice Garba Issa Babatunde.
The event was well-attended by dignitaries cutting across the three arms of government, including the Kwara House of Assembly Speaker, Yakubu Salihu Danladi; Chief Judge of the state, Suleiman Durosinlohun Kawu; former President Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami; Grand Khadi Shariah Court of Appeal, Justice Ola AbdulKadir; State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Salman Jawondo (SAN); his counterpart at the Tertiary Education, Suleiman Ibrahim Senior; Senior Special Assistant on Special Duties Alhaji Yinka Aluko; Secretary, Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev.
Idowu Ibitoye; Justice Banji Orilonise (Rtd); and Yusuf Olaolu Ali (SAN).
Royal fathers and Chieftains in attendance included the representative of the Emir of Ilorin and Magaji Are ,Alhaji Aremu Zubair; Olosi of Osi, Oba Saliu Abdulkareem Adasofegbe Arowobeku; Olusin of Ijara-Isin, Oba Ademola Ajibola; and Chief Imam of Ilorin Sheikh Muhammad Bashir.
“We’re working on judicial autonomy bill”- Governor