Opinion

Expectations for magistrates, customary court judges in the new legal year

By Bayo Akinlade

Celebrations everywhere as various state judiciaries hold their respective legal year week. The Judiciary will hold prayers in churches and mosques, organise programs, engage in valedictory sessions making speeches of all sorts.

What do we expect from the Judiciary, especially the lower courts as we dive into an election year which promises to be one of the most profound election year ever in this nation’s history.

With the grassroots more sensitized to the importance of leadership, with grassroot politics becoming more engaging, conflicts abound in which the lower courts play a critical role in maintaining peace and order.

Are our lower courts prepared or equipped to handle these issues in this legal year?

What are the plans to improve the infrastructure of lower courts? Are we going to have our lower courts equipped with modern day technology? Are we going to have our Magistrates equipped with laptops and tools to make on the spot decisions or are we going to continue to have backlog of unsettled criminal and civil disputes and continue to use these courts as dumping grounds for all manner of needless cases.

Are we going to see the legislature in various states make a bold move to improve on the salary of our magistrates and Customary Court Judges? Just as we have seen a commitment at the federal level to improve on the welfare of the Judges and Justices, is there any hope for our Magistrates? Will the State Judicial Service Commission finally do more to improve on the welfare of those manning our lower courts? At least their salaries need an upward review. Our Magistrates and CCJ deserve at least a home, one driver, a domestic staff and a car which should be renewed every 4 years.

Lagos State alone has over 13 million inhabitants but less than 220 magistrates and customary court judges…. How many permanent Secretaries and Directors does the Executive arm of Lagos State have? How many Assembly members and Directors are in the Legislative arm? Nobody can say that the 3rd arm of government cannot be adequately catered for.

Without the lower courts it will be difficult and nearly impossible to maintain law and order in any community.

Support our lower courts, take this appeal to your community representatives, take this to your legislators and take this to your governors. Make them understand that we need to take bold steps in improving our justice system and this starts with empowering and enabling our lower courts.

We deserve the Justice System we establish for ourselves… Let’s develop the best because we deserve the best!

Mr Bayo Akinlade is the convener, SLC

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