Joy, As Judiciary, Assembly Workers Resume


A section of the judiciary complex PHOTOS: ANN GODWIN

THEIR faces beamed with smiles, their hearts with relief, as they shook one another and exchanged pleasantries. “Happy New Year!” “I missed you!” “Glad to be back to work!” “Happy to see you again!”

They were the workers of the Rivers State judiciary and the House of Assembly, forced to stay at home for many months, as a result of crises that rocked the state.

If they felt elated, the mood was not exclusive to them. They shared the delight with people who run eateries, business centres and various trading places around the judiciary and Assembly premises located along Moscow Road, Port Harcourt.

Their commercial enterprises would boom again! Vehicles were seen parked in the area, as the ever-busy environment kicked to life. The House of Assembly had been shutdown for about two years following a political crisis.

Judiciary workers, on the other hand, had been at home for more than a year, owing to a festering controversy that occasioned the appointment of a Chief Judge for the state.

Former Governor Chibuike Amaechi, after the retirement of Justice Iche Ndu, the former Chief Judge, had sworn-in Justice P.C.N Agumagu, who was President of the Rivers State Customary Court of Appeal. The National Judicial Commission (NJC), however, had recommended Justice Daisy Okocha as new substantive Chief Judge.

According to the Commission, Okocha is the most Senior Judge of the High Court and therefore deserves the chair. The development had heightened infighting between Amaechi and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.

Bombing of some courts across the state followed and finally, the courts were closed. They remained closed till May 29, when Nyesom Wike was sworn-in as Amaechi’s successor.

In fact, there was no Chief Judge in Rivers State to swear-in the new governor and one had to be seconded from neighbouring Bayelsa State to perform the task on inauguration day.

Apparently irked by this void in the state judiciary, Governor Nyeson Wike, after his inauguration, reopened the courts and Assembly Complex on Monday, June 1, 2015.

He also swore-in Justice Daisy Okocha as Acting Chief Judge, a move many said brought back normalcy to the crisis-ridden judiciary.

Speaking on the development, the lawyers said the resumption has rekindled their hopes, and that they are happy to be back at work. One of them, Barr.

Precious Kingsley, said: “We are extremely happy. We lost so many of our colleagues because of hardship. When your source of income is blocked, and you have responsibilities, definitely, there will be sickness and high blood pressure, and that could lead to death. “Besides, during the period of the strike, crime rate was high.

People committed more crimes, knowing that they would not be prosecuted.” He urged the new government not to bring politics into the judiciary, so that the crisis does not happen again.

The Public Relations Officer, Port Harcourt Branch of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Angus Chukwuka, said: “The union is happy that at last the courts are open.

The damage is enormous. It’s something we cannot wish away suddenly.” He expressed hope that lawyers’ welfare would improve with reopening of the courts.

Speaking also, the Public Relations Officer of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), Cletus Kiele, described the one year stay at home as a most trying period for the lawyers. “We went through hardship and challenges of all kinds.

Some of our colleagues died. But we are glad to return to work. There is joy on the faces of the workers. We will remain resolute and cooperate with the new Chief Judge,” Kiele said.

A look around the complex showed that business has indeed returned. Women, who sell roasted plantain, and fish, were busy at work, with between five and six customers before each seller’s table, waiting to be served. Sellers of snacks, soft drink and fruits were also seen making good sales.

They expressed happiness that the place has returned to its buzzing days. One Veronica who sells snacks said: “This place was very dull and dry in the last one year, but we are happy it has bounced back and our businesses are thriving.” Johnson Eze who runs a business centre prayed the crisis would never happen again.

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