It was a sordid tale on Monday in Jos, Plateau State, when the Chief Judge of the state, Pius Damulak, narrated to the state’s Commissioner for Justice, Jonathan Mawiyau, how Judges sit on stool and litigants on bare floor to get justices.
Hear him: “The judiciary is the most sensitive among the three arms of government, but it has suffered age-old neglect; its infrastructure is just a sorry sight.
“If you go to the courts in the rural areas, there is no furniture at all. The Judge, with the members, sit on very little stools while the people sit on the ground to listen to cases. In one local government, we had to bend to enter the court because the roof of the court was supported with sticks.
“There, the roof leaks and whenever it rains, the judge has to go to a nearby house to sit; that is how bad it is,’’ he narrated in a pathetic voice.
Damulak said the decay affected the entire state, but that the courts in the rural areas were the worst hit as Judges and their members sit on little stools to handle cases.
He said apart from the sorry state of infrastructure, judges were finding it very difficult to run their offices as subventions were not paid to them.
According to him, salaries are usually delayed, and judges always forced to borrow to run their offices.
“For 13 months, we have not been paid overhead costs; we have been borrowing and sometimes judges are compelled to ask litigants to pay for stationery,’’ he added.
Damulak stated that some Judges cannot use their cars because they had become unserviceable, and regretted that such judges had to share public transport with litigants.
“Judges are entitled to new vehicles every four years as contained in their condition of appointments, but the vehicles we are using have been with us for the past 10 years.
“When this government came in, it bought vehicles for members of the House of Assembly as well as the Commissioners including you (Commissioner), but the judiciary was forgotten”, he added.
“The judiciary is also supposed to be ICT-compliant as it is done globally, but here in Nigeria, particularly in Plateau, we don’t have internet in our offices and courts.”
He said High Court Judges do not have official accommodation, and had not been paid housing allowances as stipulated.
Damulak expressed the hope that the new government, headed by a lawyer, would give some attention to the judiciary, “so that its services will improve.’’
In his response, Mawiyau said his visit was to solicit their cooperation to ensure the free flow of justice. “Justice is that essential commodity that is needed by the society.
“Without justice, certainly there will be no peace; and if we are able to deliver justice to the masses, we will solve much of the security problems in the state.’’
The commissioner said the state government was aware of the situation in the judiciary and assured his hosts that the executive arm would address them. He promised that the ministry would diligently prosecute cases, pointing out that justice delayed was justice denied.
“We are working toward making the ministry and the judiciary ICT-compliant to ease the handling of cases,” he added.