Lawyers decry dearth of judges, infrastructure in high courts
Lawyers in Enugu State have lamented the dearth of judges at the State High Court, saying that the development was the greatest challenge in the administration of justice.
State Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Osita Ogbu, who said this during the opening ceremony of the 2015 Law Week, noted that the state currently has 15 judges as against the 50 prescribed by section 4 of the State High Court Law.
According to him, “Some judges are assigned to more than one judicial division with heavy workload. For instance, in Agbani Judicial Division, there are more than 300 land cases being handled by one judge in addition to criminal and matrimonial cases. How will the judge retain memory of the demeanour of witnesses and her impression of the cases?
“We know that positions in the legislature, the executive and local governments are filled at all times, but vacancies in the judiciary are left vacant for years.”
Calling for the appointment of about 30 more high court judges in the state, Ogbu said inadequate infrastructure is also a part of the challenge confronting the dispensation of justice.
“Our magistrates sit in rotation as a result of lack of court halls. If care is not taken, they may soon start sitting at night. Our Judiciary is, perhaps, the only establishment where old, manual typewriters, some of which were procured during the colonial era, are still in use,” he disclosed.
Ogbu noted that other challenges to dispensation of justice include delay in assignment of cases to courts and disposal of cases, poor remuneration of customary court judges, dearth of bailiffs, arbitrary charges by bailiffs, extortion and unauthorised charges by court workers and unaccounted fees.
Others, according to him, are problems encountered by lawyers and litigants, who apply for transfer of cases, obtaining records of some courts, assignment of magistrates to sit at police stations during strikes, multiplicity of special courts and tribunals and delay in obtaining records of appeal among others.
He called on government to immediately wade into the problems to save the state judiciary and prime it for optimal performance.