The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has declared that most problems of the country would be resolved through strict adherence to the rule of law.
Onoghen also declared that if the country consistently respects the Rule of Law for four years, the building blocks of development would be firmly in place
The Chief Justice of Nigeria spoke yesterday in Port Harcourt when he inaugurated the ultra-modern National Industrial Court, Port Harcourt Division building constructed by the Rivers State Government under Governor Nyesom Wike.
The CJN also inaugurated the Court of Appeal building re-modelled by Wike’s administration.
At the National Industrial Court Complex, Onnoghen said: “I believe that the solutions to our numerous problems lies in the adherence to the principles of the rule of law. If we do that for four years consistently, you will see that everything will fall back into place.
“The constitution provides for each and every one of us. It has given us designated and special functions. If we adhere to these functions and discharge them to the satisfaction of our conscience, there will be development.”
He stated that in adhering to the Rule of Law, people would realise that there are societal taboos.
“For instance, locking up the courts. How can you in a democratic society think of locking up the courts? How can you say that you should deprive the judiciary of its funds, for instance?” he queried.
He charged Nigerian Judges to be fair, firm and courageous in the discharge of their functions.
He said: “You know that a man of integrity cannot be intimidated. You don’t expect a man with integrity to be subservient. Sacrifices must be made if we are to come out of the woods”.
He said the construction of the National Industrial Court by the Rivers State Government was a welcome development, and urged other state governors to emulate the gesture.
“All other state executives should learn from what is happening in Rivers State,” the CJN said.
In his remarks at the ceremony at the National Industrial Court, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, said nothing could be more important to the country than for the nation to secure the independence of the judiciary and ensure that it is no longer threatened by political and other interests.
He said: “This is possible if our judges can stand firm on the constitution under any circumstances and act consistently as morally autonomous agents with unshakable belief in the rule of law, human rights and the shared values of our democracy.
“I declare so because all through history, judicial independence is fought and won by the courage, commitment and vigilance of judges who would yield to nothing in defence of the constitution and the rule of law.
“The challenge therefore is for the Bench and the Bar to resolve to stand firm against all forms of pressures, blatant or subtle, physical or venal, that interfere with, impair or impugn the character and content of judicial decisions.”
Wike said until Nigerian judges were able to do justice in the face of threats; apply the law in the face of opposition from the government; resist peer pressures and be seen to be courageous, just and fair, only then could the nation’s judiciary be independent and Nigeria respected among nations.
He noted: “While I congratulate the Chief Justice of Nigeria on the ongoing reforms to strengthen our judiciary, I wish to remind you with respect, that on your shoulders rest the responsibility, hopes and expectations of a truly independent, impartial and proactive judiciary: a judiciary that can do justice even though heaven may fall.”
On the National Industrial Court constructed by his administration, Wike said the administration was proud to be contributing to the dispensation of justice and making Rivers State the Judicial Hub of the region.
He said: “Against this background permit me to further reiterate the point that our decision to spend hundreds of millions of naira in building a federal courthouse is not because we have so much money to throw after the responsibility of the federal government.
“But the Court system, whether Federal or State, serves the same purpose and Rivers people are the primary beneficiaries of the services rendered by these courts, irrespective of ownership.”
Former NBA President, Chief Onueze Okocha (SAN) in a goodwill message commended the Rivers State Governor for his contributions to the dispensation of justice.
President of National Industrial Court, Justice Babatunde Adejumo noted that it was the first time such a developmental gesture would be coming from a state government.
At the Court of Appeal building, President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, expressed satisfaction with the quality of work done at the facility.
She said though she was initially skeptical about the proposal to remodel the Appeal Court by Wike, because at the time, no such remodeling had been undertaken by a State Government, she was convinced by the fact that the governor intervened in other Federal Courts and establishments in the state.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, explained that the administration resolved to remodel the Court of Appeal because it had degenerated to an embarrassing level.
He said: “And so today, we are happy to have also delivered what is arguably, the best and most functional Court of Appeal complex, outside the headquarters building in Abuja to the glory of God and for the progress of our State and the Nation.
“With this courthouse delivered, we are the only State Government in our country that have directly intervened and provided the most modern courthouses for all existing Federal Courts in the State; namely, the Federal High Court, the National Industrial Court and the Court of Appeal”.