Godwin AJOM, Calabar
Overgrown weeds, dearth of furniture and other facilities that would have guaranteed a comfortable atmosphere for lawyers and judges handling election tribunal cases in the Cross River State capital are now a source of concern for officials in the temple of justice.
Also worried about the terrible situation at the Calabar High Court premises is the state chairman of the APC, Alphonsus Eba, himself a lawyer.
Ironically, the out-going governor, Prof Ben Ayade is a lawyer. But the court premises have been allowed to decay. Apart from the decaying furniture, the fans are also not working.
The tribunal was not able to have its inaugural sitting before now, because the judicial workers were on strike. Ayade himself has a case before the tribunal as he is challenging his defeat by Senator Jarigbe Jarigbe during the National Assembly election.
Even as the judicial workers decided to call off the strike and the tribunal now ready to sit, there is a fresh threat. Officials in the justice temple are afraid that dangerous reptiles may come after them while sitting.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Murtala Abdul- Rasheed who is involved in one of the cases on Friday raised the alarm that the environment was not conducive for human beings. He spoke at the inaugural session of the second tribunal panel expected to hear cases that emanated from the National Assembly elections.
He said “no matter the capacity you may have, if the environment is not enabling, your productivity will be affected. I have observed and had privilege to attend inaugural sittings in other places. My Lord, this court, this venue, is not conducive for the arduous task you have come here to do.
“All we have here are broken chairs, ceilings. The fans are not working, the environment is overgrown with weeds and this can be a flourishing ground for dangerous reptiles. If we have two cases today in this venue, it will constitute a dangerous health hazard for us. This venue will adversely affect dispensation of justice because the judges are also human beings.
Noting that there was an urgent need to make the place habitable, the SAN said “my appeal, on behalf of the inner bar, is that the observation be escalated to the constituting authority so we can have a better venue for us to carry out our assignment.”
However, the tribunal chairman, Mr Justice M.A. Sambo said the observation was good but that their assignment must be done because there was no extension of time. “This assignment must be done whether there is venue or no venue and we are all aware there is nothing like extension.
“This experience is nothing to us as we have worked in various jurisdictions some better than this and some worse. It’s a good observation and we are grateful for your comment. We will do our best in trying to see that our welfare is secured,” the tribunal chairman said.
Eba, who spoke on the same issue said the senior lawyer was correct on his observation and added that it was actually a sad situation. He said he would liaise with the state chief judge and the governor on the issue.