In the eternal struggle between good and evil, there is always the law; divine, human, political, religious etc. but for the presence of the law, society will be grounded in the Hobbesian state; no order, no reprieve, only survival of the fittest. But thank goodness the law exists.
It is a given, though not absolute, that the law is enacted so that men can get justice. But sometimes, when the law is invoked, it fails to deliver justice. Despite the apparent shortcomings in the justice system, no society takes its justice administration with any measure of levity.
In the muted struggle of affiliations and interests, the law usually stands tall, but justice is dwarfed. In advance societies where justice is the sacred oath of the law, governments ensure that the machinery of justice is not allowed to clog. Judicial procedure is not allowed to overshadow the delivery of justice, which is the purpose of the law.
In a country where the judicial process is burdensome, and the courts are insufficient and overburdened, justice suffers from technical slides. In a country where judicial officers are ill-motivated, they are often inclined to pervert the cause of justice for personal gains. Even when the judicial wheel grinds reluctantly to deliver justice, it is not justice. That is what birthed the adage-justice delayed is justice denied.
But in Rivers State, the administration of justice is undergoing historical overhaul. Governor Nyesom Wike, who had himself experienced firsthand why justice is as important as the law, if not more important, is ensuring that justice is swift and smooth for all in the state.
His travails after the last general election have brought home to him the imperative of justice if democracy is to take firm roots in the country. After the Court of Appeal nullified his election as governor on some legal technicalities, Wike found redemption at the Supreme Court, which affirmed his election and showed why the appeal court erred in law. It was a moment of joy for Wike, and he demonstrated this much at a well-publicised church service for the grace.
But it also taught him a lesson. And that is – justice can never be taken for granted. No one must assume he would win a case because his case is good. It takes the officers of the law to make a good case truly good. That is why judges are a special group. They hold the scale of justice, and can weigh you down or lift you up – sometimes, sadly, just depending on their mood!
That is why a country needs to take care of the Bench. The conflicting judgments from the courts in recent months is clear testimony that the bench holds the ace if democracy is to survive.
Governor Wike is keenly aware of this, and his administration has found ways of helping the law deliver justice. And one of the ways, as demonstrated recently, is to make judicial officers comfortable enough to make it difficult to pervert the course of justice. As a demonstration of this, Wike recently gave out 57 Honda cars to magistrates in the state. At the ceremony, the governor said he gave them the vehicles to provide enabling environment for the magistrates to “dispense justice according to the law.”
Moving forward, Wike also acquired 4.1 hectares of land at the Port Harcourt GRA for the construction of suitable residential quarters for all judges in the state. This is aside other perks of office the Wike administration has approved for judicial officers in the state.
At the ceremony, Rivers State Chief Judge, Justice Adama Iyayi-Lamikanran, commended the governor and said the gesture would enhance the dispensation of justice in the state. She urged the magistrates and other judicial officers to reciprocate Wike’s gesture by putting in their best, while noting that providing such enabling environment at a time of financial distress, was a testimony to the governor’s belief in the law as a means of attaining justice.
If truth be told, provision of cars or housing, or even jumbo pay for judges would on their own lead to better dispensation of justice. Wike, a lawyer himself, knows this better than many. There are the issues of the criminal justice system, long due for a review; the challenges of criminal investigation and law enforcement, among others. But what Wike has done, and should do more, is the widow’s mite that a state can contribute to the administration of justice.
The Wike administration’s desire to rid Rivers State of cultism will only succeed with the cooperation of judiciary and the law enforcement agencies. Cult-clashes and other cult-related violence have posed some security challenges for the state, especially Port Harcourt. Political traducers have attempted to use this as an excuse to paint the Wike administration in negative colours, though residents know that political rivalries and nothing more, is responsible for most of the clashes.
It is heartwarming that the governor has demonstrated exemplary determination to stem the tide and restore sanity to the state. Towards this end, he has given the necessary support to law enforcement agencies in the state to enable them tackle the menace of cultism. According to him, the protection of the residents of the state is paramount for his administration.
At a function recently, he said: “I have provided the required support and logistics to the security agencies to tackle these cultists. Nobody remotely involved will be spared. No cultist will go free.”
But that is only one part of the equation. The other part is the prosecution of offenders. This is where the judiciary is central and critical. Wike knows he needs the courts to be swift and smooth in delivering justice.
In June alone, not less than twenty people were killed in during violent cult clashes in different parts of the state, especially in Elelenwo and Abua/Odua Local Government Area. The situation has caused, expectedly, panic among residents.
The activities of the cult groups have usually compromised security during elections and public events. As a result, Governor Wike has come under tremendous national pressure to stem the tide and change the narrative, a call he has heeded with uncommon passion.
Nothing will demonstrate goodwill by the judiciary than to rise up to the occasion by being swift, decisive and impartial in handling cases relating to cult matters in the state. The governor has lived up to his social contract with the judiciary by looking to their welfare, therefore, the Bench should shun any form of indolence.
Rivers state is a beloved state to many Nigerians. Now that Governor Wike has laid his cards on the table, those who would play with him must demonstrate similar integrity and resourcefulness. Justice must not be delayed or denied. It is what Rivers needs. It is what Rivers should get.
-Nurudeen writes from Abuja.