Justice Rita Nosakhare-Pemu, the retiring Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Owerri Division, has admonished the Judiciary to shun corruption.
Nosakhare-Pemu gave the admonition in Benin on Monday, at the valedictory court session to mark her retirement after 29 years in service and attainment of 70 years in age.
She said that the judiciary, which was believed to be the last hope of the common man, must be seen to be so in every ramifications.
She also called for a reorganisation of court registries, adding that the registries are parts of the problems in the courts.
According to her, “I leave behind in the Owerri Division, a sanitised registry and a calm court. I am certain that the lawyers and staff in that division will attest to this fact.
“In the judicial system, I found that the registry of the court is the nucleus or pivot around which every other department revolves.
“And once you sanitise the registry of a court, half of the problem is solved. A prime, proactive and unadulterated registry is a blessing to any court.
“Therefore it is desirous and indeed imperative to sanitise on a continuous basis the registry of the courts, and counsels should desist from colluding with registries’ staff to cut corners.”
She further appealed for improved security for judicial workers, in view of recent killings of court heads in some parts of the country, as well as her kidnap in February 2022.
The jurist noted that she had the best of her career at the Owerri Division because she was able “to navigate and circumvent very difficult challenges.”
She noted that the issue of security was at the front burner, adding that the issue became more profound particularly as it appeared that the judiciary and indeed judicial officers are targets.
“Just a couple of weeks ago, the chairman of a customary court in Imo was dragged out of the court and shot on the head in the course of performing his judicial functions.
“Again, about a fortnight after, a court in that same state was gutted by hoodlums.
“I myself, on Feb. 20, 2022, as I travelled down from Benin to Owerri, was kidnapped by hoodlums within the Ihiala axis in Anambra. It was only by the grace of God that I escaped with some of my staff.
“My personal driver and the two cars in our possession are still missing as I speak. The judicial officers are exposed far too much for comfort,” she added.
In her goodwill message, the President, Court of Appeal, Nigeria, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, described Nosakhare-Pemu as a Justice reputed for writing judgement in simple English.
Represented by the Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, Benin Division, Justice Theresa Orji-Abadua, she said that the judgments of the retiring justice were usually referenced.
Similarly, Ama Etuwewe (SAN), who represented the body of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), as well as the Warri Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, said the jurist was the first female member of the Warri Branch of the NBA to rise to become a justice of the Court of Appeal.
Also, the Chairman, Benin Branch of the NBA, Nosa Edo-Osagie, said it is a thing of joy when judges retire unblemished after a long service.
“Today, a forthright, trustworthy and quintessential jurist retires from the bench with an admirable record of hard work, integrity, unbroken trust and knowledge.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Godwin Obaseki, in his remarks, said that, but for the judiciary, there would have been crisis in Nigeria going by the outcome of the Feb. 25 presidential election.
Obaseki explained that this was because of the hope by the people that they would get justice in the courts.
He also called for the decentralisation of the country’s security system to check the level of insecurity in Nigeria.
According to him, “I will say that for the judiciary in Nigeria, as you know it is the last hope for the citizens; you all saw what happened in our country on Feb. 25.
“The reason why we have peace today, and the calm in the country is because people know that there is an institution, the judiciary, where people believe and hope that they can get justice and therefore they are holding back, sheathing their swords until the outcome of the judicial process.
“Without the judiciary, without the judicial process, can you imagine the crisis we would have been in as a country today?”
The high point of the event was the public presentation of her book, Evidence of Grace.