Delta Governor, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, on Tuesday, said his administration had provided the judiciary in the state right tools, including personnel and environment conducive for ease of dispensation of justice.
Okowa disclosed this while swearing in Justice Catherine Ojugbana-Orishedere as Acting President of Delta State Customary Court of Appeal, in Asaba.
He assured that his administration would also continue to promote the growth and development of native laws and customs in the state, adding that the government would leave no stone unturned to improve the welfare and working conditions of the bench and staff in the customary court system.
“As this administration winds down, we can take pride in our modest efforts to provide the judiciary with the right tools, personnel and environment conducive to administer justice without any let or hindrance.
“Overall, I believe we have fared well in improving the welfare and working conditions of the bench and the staff in the customary court system, within the limits of available resources,” he stated.
He affirmed that Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) from which the Nigerian Judiciary derives its powers to administer justice, empowered District and Area Customary Courts to adjudicate in land disputes, marriage, succession, inheritance, guardianship, and custody of children in our rural communities.
The governor, therefore, stated that those charged with the responsibility of administering justice under the customary court system must be men and women of impeccable character, and be free from selfishness, greed and covetousness.
He added that the judges must also be driven by the principles of natural justice, fair hearing, equity, common sense and good conscience, which were the bedrock of the customary court system.
Okowa asserted that the Acting President of the court had demonstrated a high standard of professionalism and ethical conduct that would enable her to succeed in her new position, adding that her appointment was well-deserved as it was on merit.
“Let me congratulate Honourable Catherine Ngozi Ojugbana-Orishedere on her appointment as the Acting President of the Customary Court of Appeal, Delta State. As you may be aware, Honourable Justice Patience Onuwa Elumeze retired yesterday as the President of the Customary Court of Appeal upon the attainment of the mandatory age of 65 years.
“Today’s swearing-in of Justice Ojugbana-Orishedere is in line with the relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended), which stipulates that the highest-ranking judge in the Customary Court of Appeal will act as President of the Customary Court of Appeal pending conferment by the National Judicial Council.
“I note with delight that Justice Ojugbana-Orishedere comes prepared for the office having served in various capacities in the customary court system as Assistant Chief Registrar, Deputy Chief Registrar, Accounting Officer, Chief Registrar, and judge,” he said.
He described Ojugbana-Orishedere as an erudite jurist, versatile academic, experienced administrator and dedicated public servant, who presided over Area Customary Courts in Kwale, Ogharefe, and Koko at different times in her distinguished career, adding that the customary court system would benefit from her knowledge and experience.
The governor urged her to redouble her efforts by being a good example of hard work, transparency, accountability, fairness and justice.
“There is a saying that the reward for hard work is more work. This is the challenge posed by your new office. Let me reiterate the point I stressed to your predecessor that `this office will further stretch your resourcefulness, challenge your intellect, task your patience, encroach on your time, and test your value system’.
“You must maintain a high level of focus, diligence, and personal probity.
“I am confident that Justice Ojugbana-Orishedere is well positioned to take the customary court system to new heights of excellence and justice delivery because she has been part of the system since the year 2000,” he stated.
Okowa expressed the appreciation of the government and people of Delta to the immediate past President of the Customary Court of Appeal in the state, Justice Patience Elumeze, pointing out that Elumeze worked assiduously to restructure the judicial architecture of the customary court system.
“On behalf of the government and good people of Delta State, I thank you for your leadership, consistency, and commitment to raising the bar in the customary court system.
“I wish you God’s blessings and guidance in all your future endeavours, while hoping that you will be gracious enough to make yourself available for more service to the state when the need arises.
“The creation of eight additional courts, comprising four Area and four District Customary Courts, in various parts of the state has undoubtedly improved the course of justice delivery in our rural communities.
“Similarly, the recruitment of over 400 staff for the Customary Court of Appeal by this administration, has helped to address the perennial problem of manpower shortages in the sector,’’ he said.
In her speech, Justice Ojugbana-Orishedere said that she was humbled by her appointment, and thanked the governor for finding her worthy to serve.
She also thanked the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Theresa Diai, for the part she played in her appointment and for her continued support to judges in the progress of the judiciary.
She paid tribute to her predecessor, Justice Elumeze for her inspiring role in the dispensation of justice in the state.