Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, has commended the judiciary for living up to its tenets of upholding the rule of law, justice and equity in the dispensation of justice.
Prof. Ayade gave the commendation in Calabar on Tuesday when he received the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen and other justices of the Appeal Courts led by its President, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa on a courtesy call prior to the unveiling of the new Court of Appeal complex in Calabar.
According to Ayade, the judiciary has now and truly assumed its independent status in Nigeria, as it is no longer at the whims and caprices of politicians but one fully and firmly in control.
The Governor who said he was impressed with recent landmark judgements of both the Appeal Courts as well as the Supreme Court noted: “I think gradually you have helped change the politics of people thinking that they can win elections in court.
“So far, I am shocked at the level at which people are now willing to settle their political differences because they know the court is no longer available for sale.”
While urging them to be more proactive in line with the world order, Ayade reminded that “The primary essence of the judiciary is to guarantee law and order and that is why the history of law itself is derived from the norms and culture of the people, judicial precedence or pronouncement of the court. Therefore the court in itself, other than the legislature has the powers within the ambits of legal provisions to make laws.”
Ayade, however, stressed that, “Unfortunately, because we run a codified system of government, it does not allow you the luxury of your personal interpretation of issues as they come before you.
“But, the real truth is; as law migrates from common law to equity and going into a final level of jurisprudence, time has come when we must sit back and ask ourselves if the essence of the judiciary is being met.”
According to him, “The world is migrating fast from the codification system to moral justice; to what is fair. I therefore plead, that as part of the sophistication and growth of our legal system, we must advance it beyond the codification and provisions that if we do this, this is your penalty.
“We must not continue to draw our rulings based on the prescription of the law. It is only guidance, but the greater guidance is Kantianism. It is morality, it is good conscience, it is fairness, it is ensuring that warring parties that come before you leave as friends, as brothers and as sisters.
“That is the essence of the judiciary, which is the essence of the law that is the philosophy that guides the existence of this third arm of government.”
Earlier, Justice Walter Onnoghen who lauded the state government for donating the piece of land 12 years ago for the construction of the complex, said, “it was nostalgic to witness the actualisation of the dream for a befitting court of appeal complex in this part of the country.
He maintained that with the commissioning of the edifice, judges will no longer suffer the untold hardship they had experienced since the former court was gutted by fire.”
While calling on the state government to revitalise the old complex to serve as a national monument being the first court in Nigeria, Onnoghen said: “I will seize this opportunity to seek the assistance of government and people of this state, to do whatever you can, to in fact, if possible get the federal government involved and any other agency of government that can, including those in charge of the preservation of national monuments to be interested in restoring that structure for posterity.
“It will be a great landmark in the history of this country and Cross River State in particular, because you cannot run away from the fact that that happens to be the very first seat of the judiciary in this country. It was the Supreme Court of southern protectorate of Nigeria before the capital was moved to Lagos.”
At the venue of the new court of appeal commissioning along Diamond Road, behind the New Secretariat, President of the Court of Appeal recalled that the construction of the edifice started 12 years ago after the former office that was built in 1896 was gutted by fire in December 2011.
While thanking the state government for the critical role it played in ensuring the successful completion of the court of appeal Calabar division, the President explained that the choice for the establishment of the court was borne out of the fact that Calabar once hosted the Supreme Court of the Southern Protectorate in 1896 before the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorate in 1914 which gave Nigeria force of today.
The commissioning of the ultra modern court edifice had in attendance Cross River State Deputy Governor, Prof. Ivara Esu, the Obong of Calabar, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abbasi Otu V, amongst other dignitaries.