Law News
Lawyers face hardship in Rivers over judiciary crisis


Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi

FOLLOWING the continued closure of the High Courts in Rivers State, lawyers practising in the state are currently facing hardship.

The inability of the state government and the National Judicial Council to resolve their disagreement over the appointment of a state chief judge led to the judiciary workers’ strike and the closure of the courts since June 10, 2014.

While the state Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, had appointed the most senior judge from the state Customary Appeal Court, Justice Peter Aguma, the NJC had opposed it and picked Aguma’s counterpart from the High Court, Daisy Okocha, as an administrative judge of the state.

But the Public Relations Officer of the NBA, Port Harcourt branch, Mr. Angus Chukwuka, expressed worry over the impasse between the state government and the NJC, adding that lawyers in Rivers were directly affected by the judiciary crisis in the state.

Chukwuka, who spoke in a telephone interview with The PUNCH on Sunday, urged stakeholders in the state, particularly the governor to shift grounds and allow the courts to reopen.

He said, “The lawyers are not satisfied, especially where the judiciary is under lock and key. It is not a situation the lawyers in the state can accept.

“The stakeholders must make concessions. As a governor, he should be able to make concessions knowing that it is Rivers people that are suffering directly over the closure of the courts.

“NJC are in Abuja and they are not directly impacted. Lawyers in Rivers State are directly impacted by this whole crisis.”

Explaining that the NBA was not political or partisan over the NJC and the state government disagreement, the NBA spokesman added that it was imperative for the warring parties to embrace peace and allow the judiciary to function.

Chukwuka noted that since the matter was at the Appeal Court, the courts in the state should be reopened, promising that the NBA was ready to work with whoever emerged as the substantive state chief judge.

“What we are saying as the Nigerian Bar Association, Port Harcourt branch, is that we are not political; we are not partisan. We are not concerned with who it is between his (Amaechi) candidate, Agumagu and Daisy Okocha.

“The issue is already in the Court of Appeal. So, just open the courts for us. Whenever who is the rightful person to be the state chief judge is sorted out, the person will come and we will work with the person.

“For now, open the courts. Let the chief registrar not act; let Daisy Okocha not act. Let the courts open and let us be handling our old cases. It is necessary that those in prison are granted bail. Let those who are due for trials have their trials,” Chukwuka further appealed.

He expressed worry that the absence of a judiciary in Rivers State could lead to a breakdown of law and order, observing that many suspects were in prison without trial as a result of the closure of the courts.

Chukwuka, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, argued that it was important to revert to a situation where the judiciary in the state was functioning before the disagreement over the appointment of a chief judge was resolved.

“Let the judiciary be working so that the masses will have access to justice to avoid the breakdown of law and order. We are not aligning with the NJC, we are not aligning with the governor. But we are only saying that the judiciary should not be under lock and key.

“We are not concerned about grammar; we want the courts opened so that lawyers who have suffered economic hardship can begin to have succour for themselves and their families,” he stressed.

Click here to read from source.