Mr. Emmanuel Gakko has piloted the affairs of the Federal High Court as its Chief Registrar for the past one year. In this interview with AMEH EJEKWONYILO, Mr. Gakko spoke about the recent raid of the houses of some judges by operatives of the Department of State Services, and the court’s efforts to rebuild its reputation. He also spoke on some innovative programmes of the court that are aimed at better justice delivery.
How has the court fared under your watch as the Chief Registrar in the past one year?
I’m grateful to God for having stirred the affairs of this honourable court for the past one year with the assistance and wise counsel of His Lordship, the Honourable, the Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta and the management team.
Regardless of the ugly events of the recent past, I believe we have good reasons to gather as a family within the legal year. We should therefore not dissipate our energies brooding over our shortcomings in the passing year, rather we should put the ugly incidents behind us and strive towards a brighter and greater future with a view to restoring the reputation of the court.
In terms of staff welfare, what is the court doing to ginger the morale of its personnel?
As you are aware, I took over at a time of dwindling budgetary allocation, nevertheless, efforts have been made towards pursuing the agenda of His Lordship, the Hon. Chief Judge in terms of giving priority to judges and staff welfare as well as maintenance and infrastructural development in all the judicial divisions.
In terms of staff welfare, in spite of our lean resources, we have endeavoured to pay overtime allowances to officers on Grade Level 03 to 14. We wee able to cater for staff who had various health challenges and needed to be assisted. Today, I feel happy seeing them hale and hearty, especially the officer that had brain surgery. In addition, our usual December welfare package was not forgotten, but was provided as financial resources could carry.
We were able to carry the financial burdens of both the senior and junior staff promotions for January and July groups, respectively, to ensure that staff are motivated. Today, the Hon. Chief Judge has honoured deserving staff with the Annual Merit Award. This year would be witnessing the award of a second runner-up. The award, we all know, is to motivate staff for greater performance. Staff are therefore enjoined to always do their best in the service of their fatherland, bearing in mind that one day, their efforts would be recognized and rewarded accordingly.
What are the human capital development programmes of the court?
It is gratifying to note that judges attend both international and local trainings as well as medical assessment trips to ascertain their medical and health conditions. The workshops and seminars attended by the judges were to keep them abreast of current developments in Law and administration of justice in the country and the world at large. We have also conducted an induction course for the newly appointed 132 senior staff before their postings were done recently.
Staff were not left out in the training programmes within the year. In line with my words last year, I ensured that the trainings were tailored to meet the needs of staff for better performance. It is worthy to note that our motor drivers and mechanics had both theoretical and practical trainings this year at the Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology in Zaria and I am proud to say that the difference is clear. This year, we nominated twenty-five staff for various courses at the Federal Training Centres nationwide.
Permissions were given within the approved guidelines to staff who were making efforts to improve themselves academically.
Also, sporting activities are part of our staff development programmes. Our sports men and women in the Sports Club as usual made us proud by emerging the overall winners in the Chief Justice of Nigeria Games that took place at Lokoja in last September. Our team bagged eight gold, six silver and five bronze medals in the areas of athletics, handball, volley ball, badminton, table tennis, scrabble and chess respectively. Towards our preparation for the competition, sports equipment were purchased for kitting of our sports men and women. I am happy they lived up to expectation as champions.
The Federal High court recently launched an e-filing platform. What is it about?
As part of our development stride in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), we embarked on the docu-ware project which involves the conversion of the court’s judgments and rulings from the old disc system, from inception of the court to 2015. However, arrangements have been concluded for updating of the docu-ware to include judgments and rulings of 2016. Efforts are being made towards improvement of our Internet facilities at the Headquarters and connectivity to other judicial divisions with our recent migration to the optic fibre technology which would enhance better service delivery.
In the area of electronic-filing system for the court, we have so far trained all the staff concerned and all the servers are fixed, ready to start, but we cannot do this without input from legal practitioners. We have had two sessions with the lawyers, and we are planning the third and the final one, so that e-filing would commence fully. This interaction is necessary to carry the lawyers along in the operation of the court’s e-filing system.
Similarly, electronic cause lists have also been fixed in Abuja, Lagos, Port-Harcourt, Kano, Kaduna, Enugu, Jos and Maiduguri. It assists the lawyers to see their cases electronically on the board.
I would equally like to add that our ongoing court buildings are on course with renewed vigour on the part of the contractors at Damaturu and Yenagoa respectively as a result of our financial mobilisation of the contractors. The construction of four judges quarters at Temple Road, Ikoyi, Lagos are in advanced stages.
The ultra-modern court complex project at Bourdillon Road and the headquarters extension project are all on course, and we shall continue to do our best towards the completion of the projects subject to availability of funds.
On the other hand, renovation works as well as residential quarters have been carried out in several divisions within the year. With the establishment of Kebbi Judicial Division, we now have 37 functional divisions and we have continued to provide and maintain office equipment all over the divisions out of meagre resources.
Has your court fully complied with the Federal Government’s Single Treasury Account (TSA) policy?
On TSA, twenty-five of the thirty-eight judicial divisions are now using electronically generated receipts, and payments are made through the use of Point of Sale Machine (POS) and the amount goes into the Federal Government’s account. This is being done through the use of computers, printers and Internet services.
TSA compliance at the Federal High Court is total, and there is no going back on that. Lawyers and litigants pay electronically for fines and filing of court processes; using the Remittal, Retrieval and Reference (RRR) system. Court officials at the various court divisions have all complied with the Federal Government.