An Owerri-based legal practitioner, Mr Basil Chukwu, has urged Gov. Rochas Okorocha to urgently appoint more judges into the state judiciary.
Chukwu, an activist, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Owerri on Sunday.
According to him, Imo at present has only seven judges, including the Chief Judge, three of whom were serving in the Owerri Judicial Division.
“On a daily basis, a judge has an average of 30 cases in the course list with over 2000 others pending in each of the High Courts,’’ he said.
Chukwu blamed the situation on the failure of the governor to appoint new judge since he assumed office in 2011, noting that the situation had adversely affected justice delivery in the state.
He also said that the failure of the present administration to do that had increased the congestion of prisons as well as caused denial of justice to litigants in the state.
“There is a popular maxim that `justice delayed is justice denied’. A lot of people are kept in awaiting trial custody over matters that they are innocent of due to insufficient number of judges,” he said.
He further said that with the few number of judges, lawyers in Imo were faced with the challenge of meeting the National Judicial Commission (NJC) requirement for appointment as a judge.
Chukwu said: “The NJC recently stated that before one is appointed a judge, the lawyer must among other conditions secure at least five High Court cases in his or her kit,” he said.
Reacting, Mr Sam Onwuemedo, the Senior Special Adviser (SSA) to the Governor on Media, said that there was no judicial division in the state without a judge.
“No court has been closed since Okorocha became a governor. Some lawyers are politicians and the public should know that when they speak.
“If any lawyer wants to be a judge, he or she must be patient for the opportunity to occur for him to be made one.
“It is unfair for anyone to blame the governor over an offence that does not exist because of personal interest,” Onwuemedo added.