Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode on Friday unveiled plans by the State Government to establish a designated Commercial Courthouse with the overall objective of ensuring speedy resolution of disputes as well as drive commerce and enhance the ease of doing business in the State.
Speaking at the State Executive Chambers in Alausa while swearing-in Justice Opeyemi Oke as the 16th substantive Chief Judge of the State, Governor Ambode also called for more reforms aimed at fast-tracking justice delivery without necessarily compromising the fundamental principle of fair hearing and the rule of law.
He said: “There is no gainsaying that Lagos is the commercial nerve centre of the country and it deserves a modern state-of-the-art first class Commercial Courthouse to speedily address commercial disputes in the State.
“We plan to establish a designated Commercial Courthouse with the objective of ensuring speedy consideration of commercial matters. It is hoped that this courthouse will accommodate all commercial related organs of the judiciary in order to drive commerce and improve the ease of doing business.”
The Governor, who described the swearing-in ceremony as an affirmation of the belief of the present administration in the rule of law and the importance of the judiciary to the democratic system, said it was gratifying that the State judiciary, since the emergence of Justice Idowu Conrad-Taylor as the first Chief Judge of the State in 1967, had been the only democratic arm of government that had experienced a seamless transition in its leadership.
He said the 50 years of seamless transition aptly qualified the judiciary as one of the most resilient institutions in the State, and congratulated judiciary workers and all the past and present Chief Judges of the State for maintaining the integrity of the institution.
While congratulating Justice Oke, Governor Ambode said the development was a confirmation of her competence, experience and character to preside over the sacred temple of justice, just as he expressed absolute confidence in her intellectual capacity to steer the ship of the State Judiciary on a smooth sail.
The Governor, who alongside the Chief Judge are fellows of the Fulbright Scholarship of the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship from the United States of America, said it was important for Justice Oke to see her appointment as a platform to sustain and improve on the enviable reputation which the State Judiciary had built for itself over the years.
Speaking on areas requiring improvement, Governor Ambode said: “One area of our Judicial System which I consider as work in progress is the speed of justice delivery in the State. We have made significant progress in this regard with the various reforms that have been initiated and implemented.
“However, I believe strongly that we can do more by stepping up our efforts so that the wheel of justice can roll faster without necessarily compromising the fundamental principle of fair hearing and the rule of law.”
He said owing to the fact that judges in the State face enormous work load as the State judiciary is the busiest in the country, his administration was determined to seek a significant increase in the number of judges to enhance turn-over of cases in the State. He also assured of continued cooperate with the judiciary in developing and implementing appropriate strategies to ensure justice is done speedily.
In her vote of assurance, Justice Oke thanked Governor Ambode and other stakeholders for the confidence reposed in her, saying that she would key into the vision of the Governor who she described as a performer and a big dreamer, to transform the State Judiciary.
The CJ vowed that the Lagos judiciary, under her, would uphold rule of law in interpreting laws, stamp out all forms of official corruption and ensure speedy dispensation of justice, as well as improve public access, transparency and accountability to boost confidence of the public in the judiciary, among others.
Justice Oke was earlier sworn-in as the CJ in acting capacity on September 25, 2017 after the retirement of former Chief Judge, Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade on September 24, 2017. Her swearing-in as the substantive CJ, however, followed the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC) and confirmation by the Lagos State House of Assembly.