Development is Impossible Without Rule of Law – Justice Umeadi

Anambra State Chief Judge, Justice Umeadi

The Chief Judge of Anambra State, Justice Peter Umeadi, has said there would be no development without the rule of law.

According to him, countries with efficient justice systems and which place premium on rule of law attract investments.

He urged Governor Willie Obiano to govern the state by the rule of law, which he said is one of the pillars of development, if he wants to open the state up for foreign investment.

Justice Umeadi spoke in response to Governor Obiano’s remarks at a church service marking the commencement of the state’s new legal year at the Cathedral Church of St. Faith, Awka.

Obiano 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 in its budget next year.”

He noted that the state’s wheels of development comprise pillars, enablers and outcomes, adding that his administration has made the judiciary an enabler.

Justice Umeadi urged the governor to continue to respect court judgments and to abide by the rule of law.

In a chat with The Nation, he said: “Much as I appreciate what His Excellency has done trying to place the rule of law where it belongs, I do not think that he has gone far enough.

“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 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 for the requisite manpower.

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“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.

“Anambra State is building a structure that can survive without external funding including the 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.”

Justice Umeadi said the rule of law should even be the first pillar.

“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.

“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 been 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, then you will be struggling for space to contain developers, to contain investors. That is the line which I have been selling the governor,” Justice Umeadi said.

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The CJ said for development to occur, and for the state to have more investment, the justice delivery system must strengthened.

“You must first of all strengthen your justice delivery system. Nobody is exempt. Even the judiciary is also under the rule of law. So, if the judiciary does anything that is wrong, it will come under the weight of the law,” he said.

Justice Umeadi believes the state’s development may have been hampered by a lack of strict adherence to the rule of law.

“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.

“Now that the Governor has come up to say he has accepted that we should be enabler, they should help him more by saying to him this is the number one pillar.

“If they do that, the judiciary should be the one smiling, because if you move  us 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 station, but it is still one quarter away. 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 bring in half of his term,” he added.

The Lord Bishop of the Diocese of Awka, Anglican Communion, Revd Alexander Chibuzo Ibezim, urged those in justice sector to defend the rights of the poor and less privileged.

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He said: “There is a problem in the legislature; there is a problem in the judiciary and in the executive arm of government. The earlier we start discussing the issues confronting us as a nation, as a judiciary, and then we are nearing the solution.

“Today, there is no hope for the poor, the level of poverty is so high, and the rich seek medical attention abroad, build good houses, and move around with security. As we read in Exodus chapter 23: 1-9, you are there to dispense truth and justice.

“The Senior Advocates of Nigeria should extend justice to the poor, to those whose land is being taken by force from them in the villages. You are in the judiciary to fight injustice, to fight corruption and to fight for the poor.

“Time will come when all the judges including those they judge will sit before God Almighty to face judgment,” he said.

Anambra State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Mr. Anali Chude praised the governor for giving the judiciary headquarters a face lift.

He said it made it possible for the judiciary staff to work under a conducive environment, even as the governor remained committed to timely release of allowances due them.

He urged the judiciary to form a synergy with the executive in the prosecution of revenue cases by eliminating unnecessary delays.

“Without a strong internally generated revenue base, it will be impossible to meet up with the demands on government in this era of economic crunch in the country.

“It is the cardinal objective of the present administration that in spite of the economic challenges in the country, the state will not suffer retrogression,” Chude added.


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