Ekiti State Chief Judge (CJ), Jus-tice Ayodeji Daramola, has called on Governor Kayode Fayemi to put an end to poor funding of the judiciary witnessed in the last four years.
Daramola urged Fayemi to implement Section 121(3)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, which granted financial autonomy to the state’s judiciary.
Speaking at a special court session to mark the commencement of the 2018/2019 Legal Year, Daramola urged Fayemi to put an end to a situation whereby the judiciary was treated as “an inconsequential parastatal” during the administration of former Governor Ayo Fayose.
The Ekiti State Judiciary was marking the beginning of a new legal year for the first time in three years as the occasion was last held in the state in 2015 due to inadequate funding of the arm of government.
The occasion was also marked with a church service at the Cathedral Church of Emmanuel (Anglican) Communion, which was attended by Fayemi, his Deputy, Otunba Bisi Egbeyemi; his wife, Margaret; the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Oba Adeyemo Adejugbe; Oluyin of Iyin-Ekiti, Oba Ademola Ajakaiye; Judges, Magistrates, members of the Bar and workers in the state judiciary.
According to him, a situation where the third arm of government is still subjected to going cap in hand for funds to the executive arm of government has had a negative effect on its performance.
He said: “I will be using this opportunity therefore, to appeal to our governor and the House of Assembly to ensure an upward review of the annual budget of the Judiciary so that it can discharge its statutory functions without let or hindrance, so as to meet the expectations of its officers and staff.”
Daramola regretted that the judiciary was merged with schools in the allocation of funds, from where it paid its workers, adding that workers in the Executive and Legislative arms received two, and sometimes three months’ salaries ahead of Judiciary staff.
He assured members of staff that they will continue to enjoy all approved benefits within what available resources can accommodate to motivate them work harder.
Expressing his commitment to staff development, Ekiti CJ promised that the state judiciary will continue to sponsor members of staff to attend relevant seminars and conferences to update their knowledge and improve their skills and outputs.
Speaking on why there has been no increase in the number of judges on the Ekiti Judiciary Bench (11), Daramola explained that the National Judicial Council (NJC) has frozen further appointments over what it called “light workload” in the jurisdiction when compared with other busier jurisdictions.
He said: “The light workload here referred does not in any way refer to the outputs of our judicial officers, which I daresay, is one of the highest nationwide, but the total number of cases that are filed in our jurisdiction on quarterly basis.
“All efforts that we have put in place to enhance and improve the caseload are yet to dramatically alter our position.
“May I use this opportunity to appeal to members of the Bar, both official and private, to do the needful by filing appeals from the decisions of our Magistrate Courts and Customary Courts to the High Court.
“This is with a view to lifting our jurisdiction out of the present freeze zone that we have been placed this past four years. It is needless to reiterate here that increase in our workload will create appointment opportunities for their members on the High Court Bench.”
At the church service, Anglican Bishop of Ekiti Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Christopher Omotunde, called on the concerned authorities to provide judges and other judicial officers with adequate security.
He explained that one police orderly given to each judge for protection is not enough because of the sensitive nature of their job, describing such police orderlies as “mere decoration”.
The bishop urged judicial officers to be above board, fearless and be guided by the fear of God in the discharge of their duties.
Addressing the gathering, Fayemi urged the co-operation of every arm of government to make Ekiti fulfill the purpose for its existence.
The Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Mr. Olawale Fapohunda, said the executive arm is looking forward to receiving proposals on the additional work required to put the new High Court Complex into use.
Fapohunda disclosed that arrangements have been concluded to establish Ministry of Justice Academy to train legal officers in areas of advocacy, advisory work, contract drafting and client engagement.
He also gave an assurance on financial autonomy, promising to facilitate a dialogue with the executive arm to reposition and strengthen the judiciary.
Fapohunda advocated the support of the Bar to fight crime in the state and ensure that criminals are tried and convicted for the crime they commit.
Source: The Nation