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Ekiti CJ laments state of courtrooms, calls for urgent facelift

By Joseph Onyekwere
24 January 2023   |   1:24 am
Chief Judge of Ekiti State, Justice John Adeyeye, has lamented the dilapidated state of courtrooms in Ekiti and called for urgent facelifts of the facilities.

Chief Judge of Ekiti State, Justice John Adeyeye, has lamented the dilapidated state of courtrooms in Ekiti and called for urgent facelifts of the facilities.

The CJ urged the state government to construct an administrative block and headquarters for the state judiciary. He made the call last week during the official commissioning of an ultramodern High Court complex in Ikere-Ekiti, which was built and donated to the State Judiciary by the former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the current chairman of the Body of Benchers, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN).

The facility has two standard courtrooms, each of which can comfortably accommodate 50 counsel and 30 litigants; cloak rooms, toilet facilities, a 120KVA generator, a borehole, a conference room and a meeting room.

The edifice also has a dining room, two pre-trial rooms, two exhibit rooms, two holding cells, a cashier’s office, a store, a registry, general office, a reception hall, an 8,000-volume-capacity library already equipped with 4,000 books, and is equipped with Close Circuit Television (CCTV).

The CJ stated that it was the first time an individual would donate a courthouse to the state judiciary in its 26 years of existence. He said the one-storey edifice was delivered within a record four months and four days and described the building as “a 21st century facility that is well-equipped, elegant and functional,” adding, “each of the two court halls compares with any of the best courtrooms anywhere in Nigeria.”

He added that the problem of funding and poor state of infrastructure were major challenges facing the state’s judiciary.

“Out of 10 judicial divisions, six of them are at stages of dilapidation, including Omuo, Ikole, Efon, Emure, Ilawe and Ido Ekiti divisions; and 20 of 29 customary courts are yearning for renovation.

“The need for urgent interventions can, therefore, not be overemphasised,” the CJ explained.”

The state governor, Biodun Oyebanji, said the new court would go a long way in enhancing access to justice and easing the burden of litigants in Ikere, who travel several miles away to seek judicial redress.

The governor promised to address the identified problems confronting the judiciary.

“I have made a promise to the CJ and I will not disappoint,” he said. Praising Olanipekun, he urged other Ekiti indigenes to give back and contribute to the state’s development.

Chairman of Ikere Branch of the NBA, Dr Michael Afolayan, said the situation was so bad that a judge found a snake on his desk and fled. He thanked Olanipekun for his support to the branch, including paying the Bar Practice fees of members from inception in 2012 till 2015 and donating a 16-seater bus to the branch.

“Ikere now has the best court in Nigeria,” he said, adding that the branch remained grateful to the legal icon. Explaining his reason for embarking on the project, the donor said most high courts in Nigeria lack basic facilities such as toilets and power supply.

According to him, lawyers scramble to secure seats in many courtrooms, while others are packed full like sardines. Olanipekun said many lack water supply and functional libraries, adding that the deteriorating state of courtrooms was an impediment to justice delivery.

He said: “May I use this opportunity to plead and appeal to our different governments all over the country, as well as all men of goodwill, that we have to pay attention to the deteriorating state of courtrooms, court facilities and fixtures in most parts of the country.

“The walls and roofs of a good number of our courtrooms are collapsing and caving in.

“Basic facilities such as toilets are not available in a good number of courts all over the country. Water and electricity are lacking. In most instances, functional libraries are not available.

“A sad spectre or scenery of lawyers scrambling to secure seats with litigants or sharing the meagre available accommodation within the ‘sardine – packed’ courtrooms menacingly intimidate judges, counsel and litigants.

“The picture created of a typical court of justice in Nigeria is that of a congested police barrack, yet, these are supposed to be the bakery of justice; alas! without the aura, aroma and fascination of judicial respectability.

“The ambience of a typical or average courtroom should reflect an atmosphere of learning, which judges and lawyers subscribe to, and are known for, rather than representing, both from within and without, a rough, untidy, unclean and unkempt theatre.

“I venture to submit that a good courtroom with up-to-date facilities will attract the confidence of litigants in our judicial system.”

The courtrooms were named after former Supreme Court Justice Michael Ogundare, the first lawyer from Ikere, called to Bar in 1958; and Justice Olajide Olatawura, who hailed from Ikole in Ekiti and was the first indigene of the old Ondo State, and by extension, Ekiti to rise to the Supreme Court.

The library was named after Aare Afe Balalola (SAN), who Olanipekun described as “undoubtedly a legal patriarch, colossus, potentate, leader, torchbearer, trailblazer, towering figure and shepherd.”

The donor added: “To us at Wole Olanipekun & Co, this is our own humble way of celebrating these father-figures, mentors, role models, pathfinders, progenitors, heroes and beacons of light of our profession.” He appreciated those who donated books to the library and called for more donations.