President of Courts of Appeal Nigeria, Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa, OFR assisted by other dignitaries including Governor Willie Obiano, Senator Uche Ekwunife , the Judges of the Awka court of Appeal , Hon Chris Azubuogu and Hon Chinedu Onwuaso among others inaugurating the Court of Appeal ,Awka on Wednesday
*as Obiano, former Governor Obi, others receive commendation
By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu
The President of the Nigerian courts of appeal, Hon Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa on Wednesday in Awka , Anambra state capital commissioned the Anambra division of the Court of Appeal amidst pomp and ceremony. The court is the number 18th after Asaba that was inaugurated on Tuesday.
Justice Bulkachuwa expressed gratitude on the support of the Anambra State government led by the governor, Willie Obiano and other stakeholders in ensuring the establishment of court, saying that it is her hope that the court would serve the purpose of its establishment.
This is coming as the President of Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa received commendation from a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Anambra state, Barrister Peter Afuba whose time in office during former Governor Peter Obi heralded the application for the establishment of the court in Anambra.
Expressing his joy over the establishment of the Court of Appeal division in Awka, Barrister Afuba commended all those who in one way or the other facilitated the actualization of the Appeal Court branch.
Afuba said the application for the court to be established in Awka kicked off during his time as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice under former Governor Peter Obi’s regime when Obi’s administration attracted the establishment of a Federal High Court and Customary Court of Appeal in Awka.
He commended former Governor Peter Obi for his foresight in initiating the process and incumbent Governor Willie Obiano for understanding that Government is a continuum by actualizing the establishment of the Court of Appeal in the state. He expressed happiness to Obiano for acting on that aspect of governance for better justice delivery as his heart was gladdened.
The former Anambra Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice commended the current Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr Uju Nworgu and all those who contributed in the ministry of Justice and Judiciary to ensure that the Appeal court project becomes a reality after meeting all the conditions stipulated by President of the Court of Appeal.
The conditions include a court hall , administrative building and chambers and residences for five justices.
Investigation reveals that over seventy percent of the cases at the Enugu Division of the Court of Appeal originate from Anambra State.
Afuba informed that sitting an appellate court in Awka would lessen the sufferings of Anambra people traveling to other areas like Lagos, Kaduna, Enugu, Ibadan and Abuja for their appeal. He said it will equally reduce the cost of travelling to Enugu frequently to obtain justice, and time of obtaining justice as well as the huge fees paid legal practitioners for their services. He added that the socio-economic benefits of the court in Awka are great.
He as well commended the five-person committee, headed Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN to work for the creation of the appellate court, Mrs Patricia Igwebuike, the Special Adviser to the State Government on Legal Matters, as well as other committee members are Justice Anthony Iguh, formerly of the Supreme Court; Dr Uju Nwogu, the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice; and Mr Emeka Etiaba, a renowned Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
Going memory lane earlier on establishment of the court of Appeal, the President of Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa stated: “Going by statistics and Justice dispensation, Anambra has 60% of the cases in Appeal Court in Enugu.
“It is a mile stone in the history of the Court of Appeal and the Nigeria judiciary and should gladden the minds of the ordinary Nigerian because it is long overdue.
“This will bring Justice closer to the people. We praise states like Anambra who have provided the needed resources to ensure that the courts open here, despite their meagre resources.
“The past and present chief justices of Nigeria who have been associated with the request and the NJC for approving the request. We are grateful for the support of the governor and we hope that you will continue to support us.”
Justice Bulkachuwa said that regardless of the achievements of the court, there were some challenges they grapple with in the course of their duty.
Bulkachuwa said: “Current trends in the justice management system are focused on probity, accountability, ethics and best practices of judicial officers on the one hand, and quick dispensation of justice and bringing justice closer to the people on the other hand.
“The selection process for the appointment of judicial officers had been thorough; good, dedicated, honest, and prudent hands are brought into the judicial system with very few cases of malpractices reported.
“The quick dispensation of justice and bringing justice closer to the people has posed a great challenge to the court as well as to the entire judiciary. For example, the court has been growing its number of divisions from three divisions at its inception in 1976 to five divisions in 1977, 10 divisions in 1999 and 16 divisions in 2011.
“In an attempt to bring justice closer to the people and to stem the tide of the delay suffered as a result of congestion of cases in some divisions of the court, however, it might surprise one to note that while the number of the divisions of the court is increasing, the court’s budget envelop either remains static or is decreasing in the corresponding period.
“This has greatly affected the operations of the courts and the working conditions of the Justices. We believe that this situation will improve; and change in that direction will guarantee a more efficient judiciary now and in the future”, she added.
Speaking at the event, Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano said the inauguration of the court would save litigants from Anambra the risk of travelling to Enugu from Awka to seek Justice.
Obiano said, “Today is a great day in the history of the Judiciary in Anambra State. Today, this great state finally stands on her own feet in the administration of justice after decades of relying on the Court of Appeal in Enugu for litigations beyond the jurisdiction of the High Courts.
“In commissioning this complex today, we hope to reduce the risk faced by our lawyers and litigants who have been condemned to travel to and from Enugu every now and then, in search of justice. The records show that 75% of the cases in the Court of Appeal in Enugu usually comes from Anambra State. Considering the state of federal roads across the country, this move becomes a development out of necessity and a symbol of goodwill to our lawyers and citizens questing for justice.”
Obiano further said, “I am reliably informed that before now, there were only 16 Courts of Appeal in the country but with the recent establishment of four new ones in Awka, Asaba, Kano and Gombe, we now have 20. Of these four new courts, Awka is the second to be commissioned. I guess that makes us the 18th Court of Appeal in Nigeria. So, this is no mean achievement considering that there are 36 states in the country.”
He said that besides the inauguration of the court, his government has mapped out a big expanse of land for the permanent site of the court.
Senator Uche Ekwunife representing Anambra Central, Hon Chinedu Onwuaso representing Awka North and South Federal constituency and Hon Chris Azubuogu representing Nnewi South/Nnewi North an Ekwusigo federal constituency, Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Right Hon Uche Okafor , Acting Chief Judge of Anambra state, Justice Onochie Anyachebelu , former Governor ,Dame Virgy Etiaba among other prominent citizens of Anambra and beyond.