The Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, has advocated the need for state governments to take appropriate steps towards reviewing and expanding the jurisdiction of their various magistracies to improve justice delivery in the country.
This is as he called on the second tier of government to give magistrates a relatively better recognition as judicial officers like their senior counterparts on the higher bench.
Ewhrudjakpo stated this while delivering a keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 2022 Magistrates’ Association of Nigeria Conference in Yenagoa.
A statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Doubara Atasi, said the deputy governor described magistrate courts as the bedrock of the Nigerian criminal justice system.
He noted that the role of magistrates was too crucial and indispensable in the administration of criminal justice to be left the way it is.
He, therefore, challenged state governments to look at extant laws with a view to expanding the scope and quality of judicial services being rendered by magistrates in light of current realities in the country.
Ewhrudjakpo, who also made a strong case for community service as an option in the country’s criminal laws, stressed that hearing of cases should not be unnecessarily protracted over time.
He said Bayelsa was making concerted efforts towards the improvement of the quality of the welfare of magistrates and related issues in the state.
He assured the state chapter of the M.A.N that the state government would complete the magistrate court complex in Yenagoa, to enhance the speedy dispensation of justice in the state.
Ewhrudjakpo said, “The magistrates are actually the bedrock of the criminal justice system in Nigeria. Your role is not only crucial but also very indispensable.
“I feel that all state judiciaries should take steps to recognize magistrates as judicial officers. Let us look at our laws that empower us to set up the state judicial committees, to empower us to do something about the recognition of these people that are dispensing justice at the first instance.”
In her remarks, the State Chief Judge, Justice Kate Abiri, applauded the state chapter of the association for sparing no efforts in putting the conference together.
Kate, who was represented by Justice Matilda Ayemieye, while commending the state government for doing well for judicial officers in the state, requested the completion of the Magistrate Court Complex.
Also speaking, the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Biriyai Dambo (SAN), described the magistracy as an integral part of the judiciary that holds the fabric of society together and urged the participants to draw optimally from the conference.
In his welcome address, the state chairman of M.A.N, Obiri Florizel, called for better welfare and working environment for magistrates in view of the bulk of criminal and civil matters they handle, saying that most litigations begin at the magistrate courts.
Describing the Governor Douye Diri-led administration as judiciary-friendly, he, however, appealed to the state government to complete the magistrate court building close to the Multi-Door Court Complex in Yenagoa to address the infrastructural deficit challenge of the association.
Representatives of the Magistrates’ Association of Nigeria from Rivers, Delta and Imo states also delivered goodwill messages at the two-day conference with the theme: Improving the Quality of the Administration of Justice in Magistrate Courts.