The Governor of Cross River State, Senator (Prince) Bassey Edet Otu has reiterated the commitment of his administration towards tackling the challenges confronting the Judiciary in the state.
Governor Otu stated this at the occasion organized by members of the judiciary to mark official opening of the 2023/2024 Legal Year.
The new legal year commenced on Monday with thanksgiving service which took place at St Bernard Catholic Church, Marian Hill, Calabar, the Cross River State capital. It was followed by inspection of guard of honour before they moved to the court.
Otu, ably represented by his Deputy, Rt. Hon. Peter Odey, was quoted as saying that “This occasion serves as a reminder of the pivotal role that our legal system plays in upholding justice, safeguarding our rights and ensuring the rule of law in our society.
“The legal year is a time where we reflect on accomplishments of the past and look forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. It is a moment of commitment towards the pursuit of justice.
“The legal year also affords us an opportunity to reflect on the state of access to justice in our society. We must make sure that Justice is not only available to those who can afford it but to all members of our community.”
The governor who is working round the clock to redirect the ship of governance towards growth and progress further stated:
“The government is ready to collaborate with the judiciary to ensure that our Judges are equipped with all that is necessary to ensure they discharge their duties responsibly.
“We must strive for legal system that is not only equitable and fair but also one that is inclusive and responsive to all individual regardless of their status.
“I want to assure you that this administration will meet with the judiciary and put an end to all the complaints existing in the judiciary.”
He urged members of the judiciary to be guided by the principles of integrity and professionalism as they begin this legal year.
Earlier, the Chief Judge (CJ) of Cross River State, Hon. Justice Akon Ikpeme, said it was traditional for them to begin the legal year in God”s presence.
Justice Ikpeme thanked the Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Charles Etim (Esq) for his homily, noting that a time will come when everyone, including judicial officers will stand before the greatest Judge of all.
The Chief Judge appreciated all who left their tight schedules to attend the occasion, expressing delight over the number of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) present.
She said: “I have not seen this number of SANs before in an opening of legal year. I want to specifically thank you all.
“I pray in this new legal year we will judge with our consciences in place.
“We really need a multi-purpose hall, and I know with this administration it will materialize.”
Speaking in the court, Distinguished Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN, wished the Chief Judge and the entire judges in the Cross River State judiciary a happy new legal year.
He prayed for the judges, saying “May this new legal year bring you comfort. May it bring you all the facilities that you need to do your work. May you remain incorruptible in spite of the economic hardships we are passing through.”
Noting that Cross River has a unique place in the history of Nigerian judiciary, the legal luminary and ex-Senate Leader said: “If you study the history of the judiciary, the first Supreme Court of Nigeria is in Calabar by the governor’s house. Many years ago, it got burnt, the building caught fire and it has been abandoned. Our history has been lost to that fire. We need a restoration of that Supreme Court building because that is part of our history.
“And in case we have forgotten, this is the only jurisdiction in Nigeria that has produced two Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN). So, we shouldn’t take our history for granted. First, it was Darnley Alexander (from 1975 to 1979) and second was Walter Onnoghen (2017 – 2019).