The Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Kayode Fayemi, says governors are in support of judicial autonomy although the challenge is how it will be implemented.
Mr Fayemi, the governor of Ekiti State, made this known on Monday in Ado Ekiti when he received the newly elected President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Akpata, in his office.
The governor said he had led a delegation, on behalf of the forum, to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Mohammad, and the President of the Court of Appeal, Monica Dongban-Mensem, on the matter.
He said the meeting was aimed at reaching a common front on the modalities for the implementation of the new policy across the country.
Governors, he said, believe that judicial reform remains the engine room of any democracy and necessary reforms must be undertaken to promote the rule of law.
“One thing that is a priority to us in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum is the issue of judicial autonomy.
“All governors in Nigeria are for judicial autonomy but the contention had always been the modality for its implementation.
“I have met with the CJN and President of the Court of Appeal to work out the modalities for its implementation in such a way that it will be mutually beneficial.
“We consider judicial autonomy a critical component of our democratic growth and we must ensure that it happens.
“In Ekiti here, matters of Justice Sector Reform are so dear to our heart and we are ready to work with the NBA to fast track action on this for the sake of our judiciary,” he said.
Mr Fayemi also said Ekiti State had been in the vanguard in the fight against Gender Based Violence (GBV), adding he considered it a huge crime against humanity.
He said the NGF was putting machinery in motion to involve all the governors in the campaign so as to stem the tide.
“We expect all our governors to be active in this fight and that is why the governors declared a state of emergency against GBV and with this, all governors are expected to domesticate the GBV law in their respective states.
“If we don’t empower girls and ensure they are put in schools, patriarchy will continue to dominate.
” We have a sexual referral centre here in Ekiti that we established for the victims of violence and that is what should be applicable all over the states.
‘We have a support mechanism for the police and the NBA should also be active in giving a bite to the fight to promote gender balancing,” he said.
Mr Fayemi appealed to the NBA president to partner Ekiti lawyers and give them a sense of belonging in the union.
He said Ekiti had a long history of producing good lawyers who could be encouraged to become Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs).
He gave an assurance that the government of Ekiti and the NGF would back Akpata to succeed.
” I have no doubt that your tenure will bring transformation to the NBA in many areas. I have two distinguished members of the bar from my state who partook in the race.
“But whatever happens, we are ready to queue behind the winner. I am not only assuring you of Ekiti support, but that of NGF,” he said.
Mr Akpata, on his part, promised to bring radical development to the NBA through promotion of welfare packages for lawyers.
He said the body would not be a spectator in the task of injecting reform into the nation’s judiciary, adding that NBA would be a partner in the quest for judicial autonomy.
“There will be constructive engagements with the governors so that they won’t pay lip-service to the implementation.
“We won’t be sitting on the fence regarding this. In the absence of autonomy, what we have is an emasculated judiciary and it is the people that will suffer when this happens.
“To achieve this, we will work closely with policymakers to ensure that we tighten all loose ends in our constitution.
“We will ensure that the rule of law is respected. We will also work with the NGF to strengthen the judicial institutions for the sake of all Nigerians,” Mr Akpata said.