In a bid to create a better working environment for the judiciary, the Kwara State Governor on Tuesday alluded to the fact that plans are already on ground to build a befitting new High Court and Complex for the State’s Ministry of Justice.
He stated this during a meeting with the newly inaugurated Ilorin branch executive committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Ilorin who had come to pay him a courtesy visit.
The Governor said he was displeased with the “inhabitable” conditions of courtrooms in the state — a condition that had earlier necessitated the rebuilding and furnishing of the area court at centre Igboro and the magistrate court at Sango and the re-roofing of the high court complex, among other renovation works in the justice sector.
While addressing the NBA delegation led to the meeting by the chairman of its Ilorin branch Ganiyu Bello, AbdulRazaq said “I appreciate the fact that you said you have seen some changes in the state. We will try to do more to create a just society, where everybody has access to social amenities and good governance”.
“You made some few requests which we will look into: the issue of customary courts. I will take it up with the Chief Judge of the State and discuss it and see how we can go about it. It is something I had earlier discussed with the CJ. Your courtrooms are truly in a bad shape. It is just that the resources are not there but we will take it one by one.”
“Just last week I was sharing the design of a new high court with the Chief Justice. We have a new design for new high court and ministry of Justice and so on. Not just a new court, the Chief Justice also complained about the benches and I said most courts these days do not use benches any more; it is something that we have to change. We are up to that.”
In the Press release by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, it was stated that the courtesy visit was attended by the state attorney general and commissioner for justice Barrister Salman Jawondo.
During this visit, the Governor also shared his opinion on the national efforts towards autonomy for the judiciary, legislature, and the local governments. He stated that he had always been an advocate of autonomy for each of arm of government, including the local government which he described as the closest to the grassroots.
He however explained that the autonomy would comes with its own challenges, most especially the financial aspect knowing full well that the financial obligations to be borne by each arm of government, particularly the issue of pensions, gratuities, and contract awards, among others.
“Personally I feel that (autonomy) is a way to go. There are issues to tackle in that respect. If you say total autonomy, are we moving the pension and gratuity to the judiciary or to the House Assembly? Is Judiciary going to set up its own mechanical and housing departments to take care of and award contracts and do other things? So, those are the issues we need to tackle.
“From what we have noticed so far on local government autonomy, which I always champion, because they are closer to the people and should be allowed to do their jobs with the resources they have and they should have. But over time, the cost of running local government (in Kwara, for instance) has bloated beyond what can effectively run the local government.
“At the beginning of this republic, the cost of running local government in terms of salary, pension and gratuity was about 30/40% of their income. Today, it is 100% or a little less. For example, in Kwara what we get averagely as income for local governments is about N2.6b. The wage bill is N2.6b (salary, gratuity and pension) and that is on #18,000 minimum wage. We are yet to agree on the new minimum wage of N30,000 based on issues surrounding how they can afford it and in view of the law (banning states from handling LG funds). Some months they get N2.8b, N2.7b and N2.3b but the average has been N2.6b. By the current consequential increment, the local governments will need roughly N400m more to pay the new minimum wage and that is the challenge”
While appreciating the Governor, Barrister Bello commended the Governor on some projects his administration had embarked on. He further asked for improve welfares for Judges, especially area Court Judges.
“We commend you on what you have been doing so far as our Governor, especially with regards to the happenings in the state. We have noticed prompt payment of salary of civil servants. We know you don’t play with that and we are glad to have you as the man at the affair of kwara state at this time. Your untiring efforts towards the control of the menace of COVID-19 are duly noted; we also noticed your prompt attention to constructing collapsed bridges and other infrastructure. We saw your efforts as well in ensuring that we have befitting courts especially the area court in centre Igboro, magistrate court at sango, and so on,” Bello said.
“Our other request is for your Excellency to consider us for having a befitting NBA House within the GRA here, because some of our counterparts have their own houses here, given to them by the Kwara State government. We will be happy if same gesture is extended to us. We also want to call on your Excellency to assist the judiciary on the need to establish a customary court of appeal in Kwara state.”196