do state Chief Judge, Justice Daniel Okungbowa, says his vision is to make the state judiciary better than he met it and build on his predecessor’s successes.
Justice Okungbowa made the remark at a ceremonial court session marking the commencement of a new legal year for the Edo State Judiciary.
While pledging zero tolerance to corruption, he pledged to automate court proceedings and evolve a fully technology-driven judicial process.
He acknowledged the cordial relationship between the state judiciary and the government and sued for its sustenance within the constitutional limits of the separation of powers.
He told the gathering that his administration would work towards reducing the workload on judges occasioned by multiple jurisdictions of judges with the attendant strains.
On manpower development, he assured that the training and retraining of various cadres of judicial staff would be sustained, though the state judiciary was yet to attain financial autonomy.
The Edo state chief judge implored the state government to undertake massive renovation of dilapidated judicial structures across the state, especially those outside Benin City.
On the judiciary’s case flow, he said as at August, 3,418 cases were brought forward in the criminal division, while 3615 were disposed of, leaving 3,478 pending.
At the civil division, 8,900 cases were brought forward out of 8,631 filed while 7,894 got disposed of.
He said 9,637 were still pending.
The Magistrates’ courts have 5,977 cases brought forward from 3,450 filed and 3,377 disposed of while 6,455 are pending.
Smaller claims courts have 44 cases brought forward from 63 filed, and 53 disposed of while 54 are still pending.
At the Area customary courts, 3,271 cases were brought forward from 8,157 filed, 7,876 disposed of while 3,552 remained pending.
The district customary courts had 470 cases brought forward from 664 filed and 626 disposed of while 508 are pending.
The chief judge stated that the state judiciary’s internally generated revenue for the previous legal year was more than N560 million.
Earlier, the chief judge and other judicial officers worshipped at St Joseph Catholic Church in appreciation to God for His mercy towards the state’s judiciary in the outgone year.
During the ceremonial court session, Mr. Solomon Asemota, SAN, on behalf of senior benchers, cautioned that the judiciary was now acting as the executive arm of government due to conflicting ideologies.
The chairman of the Benin branch of the NBA commended the executive’s approval for the appointment of new judges and called for the implementation of judicial financial autonomy.
He decried the situation where courts in Benin had constant power supply while those outside didn’t.
He also called for the enhancement of the operations of area court presidents for better dispensation of justice while reiterating the need for Customary Court of Appeal to be re-established.
The ceremony was preceded by the inspection of a guard of honour by the Chief judge of Edo, mounted by a detachment from the Nigeria Police Force
Earlier at a thanksgiving service, His Grace, Most Rev. Augustine Akubeze, the Archbishop of the Metropolitan Sea of Benin, in a homily, prayed God to bless the new legal year with peace.
He also prayed that the chief judge’s tenure would bring peace to the judiciary and Edo.
Archbishop Akubeze appreciated the government for providing a conducive environment for the judiciary to operate while he urged judges to always act in the best interest of the people and be instruments of God’s justice and peace.
He urged legal practitioners to continue offering probing services to those who could not afford legal fees.