Obaseki spoke when he received the leadership of the Edo State Judiciary, led by the Chief Judge, Hon. Justice Joe Acha, at the Government House, Benin City. The Chief Justice was on a customary farewell visit due to retirement.
Reiterating the need for sustained reforms for a more sustainable justice system, the governor said, “The structure and demographics of the judiciary is something we need to think about for sustainability. I’m glad that the amendment extending the retirement age is being considered. We need to take a long-term view of the judiciary and see how people appointed will be able to sustain the law for a longer period.”
He continued: “When I assumed office, I made it very clear that for us, the judiciary is the bastion on which our democracy rests and that without law and order, we cannot have a vibrant democracy. I’m glad that we have all witnessed what has happened in Edo in the last six and a half years.
If we did not take steps in the very early stage of our administration to enforce law and order in this state, I’m not sure we would have had the level of socioeconomic development we have today. That we do is as a result of the support we received from the judiciary. So, whatever that we have achieved as the executive arm of government is largely due to the working relationship we had with the judiciary.”
Obaseki added, “It is very clear, therefore, that we must take concrete measures to strengthen our judiciary and make it more independent. I’m glad that with Justice Acha, we have been able to begin to create a roadmap for the judiciary – a roadmap that should focus on the welfare, training, and improving the work condition of the judges and other tiers of the judiciary in Edo State just as we’ve done for the executive. We need to develop a work plan that insists that the ordinary Edo citizen has unfettered access to justice and strengthens those courts that provide that access, particularly the lower courts.”
According to him, “We must ensure that we improve the conditions of the judiciary to the best in terms of benefits, housing, office and post-retirement conditions and I’m glad that Justice Acha has started that process which I hope your successor will ensure that we finalize and institutionalize.”
The governor further noted, “I am glad on how you have adopted technology and the other investments that we have agreed to make in the judiciary. I’m hopeful that the infrastructural refurbishment which you have started, making sure that our judges in the outstations live and work contentedly and also ensuring that we provide adequate security for them, we will improve on and sustain the growth recorded.
“I appreciate our retiring Chief Judge who has worked very hard and his colleagues in the judiciary, and the cooperation we have received from you for the last two years. Be rest assured that you started a process and you must benefit from them. I know there are NJC guidelines that can inform us of the parting packages which we will commence implementing with you.”
Earlier, Justice Acha expressed appreciation to the governor for his support to the judiciary, noting, “As is customary, I have led the leadership of the judiciary to pay you a farewell visit. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Section 291 subsection 1, provides that a High Court Judge must retire upon attaining the age of 65 years. Come the 19th of May, I will be 65 years old.”
He added, “I could not have wished for a better governor. Your passion to turn Edo State into an Eldorado is legendary. I immediately discovered that we share the same passion for the overall development of Edo State. You not only intervened in some of our critical infrastructural and personnel needs, the welfare of judges and staff of the judiciary has been greatly enhanced and we have made tremendous progress.”