By Kayode Adeoti
For more than a year now, the agitation for the provision of more courtrooms, welfare of members of the lower cadre of the bench among others have been major issues dominating discourse in the Kwara State judiciary.
Today, at the High Court level, no fewer than two judges share one courtroom for the business of the day. This implies, one judge will seat from 9:am till 12noon while another takes over afterwards. This development has however given birth to what some legal practitioners tagged ‘morning and afternoon court sessions’.
The scenario at the magistracy appears worsen, considering the fact that about four magistrates share one courtroom on daily basis. Findings by Pilot Law reveals that most of these magistrate buildings, especially the ones outside the headquarters are in deplorable conditions.
In fact, late last year, the lower cadre of the bench threatened to down tool over this issue and several others facing the judiciary. To make bold their intention then, they wrote a petition to the authority of the court enumerating their demands as well as giving ultimatum to when these needs must be met.
About three weeks ago, the Judiciary Service Commission (JSC) under the chairmanship of the State Chief Judge, Justice Saidu Durosinlohun Kawu, promoted 29 Legal Research Assistants to the High Court Judges and Court Registrars who are holders of LLB/BL to the magistrate’s bench.
This development further heightened demand for the provision of more courtrooms that will accommodate both the existing jurists and the new ones.
However, this medium learnt recently that the dearth of courtrooms will soon become a thing of the past once the secretariat building embarked upon by the state government is completed. It was gathered that office of the Auditor-General and Ministry of Commerce and Cooperatives will be moved to the new building while their facilities will be acquired and converted to courtrooms.
In a recent chat with this medium, the Chief Registrar of the State High Court, Justice Olalekan Adegbite and the Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Barr. Muhammed Idowu Akande, confirmed that plans are in the pipeline to acquire the two government’s structures for the judiciary.
“We are seriously working on it and we hope very soon, it will be addressed. In fact, work is almost at completion. The two structures behind the judiciary blocks will soon be vacant after the completion of the new secretariat. The Civil Servants at these offices will move to the new facility while the judiciary takes over.
“According to Governor Ahmed, all projects being handled by his government will be completed before the end of his administration. However, before the end of the year, we should be hopeful. Justice Adegbite stressed.
In the same vein, the NBA chairman said, “We’ve been dialoguing with government, initially we were complaining of lack of quarters and courtroom for our judges, with the additional 29 magistrates who were appointed recently, the situation has escalated.
“I have met the Chief Judge and the Attorney-General, Barr. Kamaldeen Ajibade SAN, on the issue and their responses are the same. The Office of the state Auditor-General and the Ministry of Commerce will be released to the Judiciary; agreement has been reached on this.
“The only challenge we have now is that those offices are still being occupied by civil servants and one cannot drive them out, it is on the condition of the completion of the secretariat building that those ministries blocks will be released. Hopefully, before the end of this administration term, there will be changes, and if this government cannot complete it, then it becomes the responsibility of the coming one. This is a problem that can be solved within six months,” Akande stressed.
The NBA Chairman also stated that he is making concerted efforts towards ensuring the fulfillment of the promise he made during NBA electioneering campaign to acquire the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) structure for the judiciary.
The Senior State Counsel noted that it is quite atypical to situate offices of Civil Servants with that of the court, saying activities of the SUBEB often times poses nuisance to the proceedings of the court.
“Yes, I never forget the promise I made and I must confess, I have been on it, but what government promised is that the SUBEB will leave that place but not now, it is going to be one step after the other,” he said.
On his part, the chairman of the Young Lawyers’ Forum (YLF) of the NBA, Barr. Olayinka Dauda Jimoh also stated that the development is good if it can be achieved before the end of this present administration.
“What we agitated for over the years is befitting courtrooms for our judges and magistrates and we thank God that dream is fast coming to actualisation, this will go a long way to ensure speedy hearing, in some states of the country, judiciary is one sector that is well funded, ours should be no exception.