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Why Abuja court operated in restaurant, by Uwais, Ukeje

Posted by From Emmanuel Onwubiko, Abuja on 2005/05/13 | Views: 451 |

Why Abuja court operated in restaurant, by Uwais, Ukeje


AS the new Federal High Court complex in Maitama, Abuja was commissioned yesterday, insights were given into why the court had operated in a restaurant for 12 years.

AS the new Federal High Court complex in Maitama, Abuja was commissioned yesterday, insights were given into why the court had operated in a restaurant for 12 years.

Two different accounts of the development came from the Chief Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais and the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Justice Rose Ukeje.

In his speech, Uwais disclosed that the relocation of the federal capital from Lagos to Abuja 12 years took a great toll on the operations of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

He said: "It would be recalled that when the seat of the Federal Government moved from Lagos to Abuja over 12 years ago, all the federal establishments, including the agencies and the parastatals, were required to move to the Federal Capital Territory. Of the three federal courts in Lagos, the Supreme Court was the first to move to Abuja on April 16, 1996 and it was followed later in that year by the Court of Appeal."

Uwais said part of the reasons that the Federal High Court, Abuja Division had to operate from a restaurant was because the hierarchy of the court then was reluctant to relocate from Lagos.

His words: "For some inexplicable reason, the Federal High Court did not show any interest in making the move. Questions were asked as to the failure of the court to relocate to Abuja. As an answer to the questions, it was decided to establish the presence of the court by positing only a judge as had been done in the case of the states of the federation. After being temporary located in the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and at Gwagwalada subsequently, the current accommodation, which was a restaurant, was secured as part of the premises which had been nick-named the Organisation of African Unity quarters."

In her speech, Ukeje departed from the reason adduced by Uwais regarding why the Federal High Court had to operate in a restaurant building.

But she did not cite specific reasons.

Ukeje said: "The journey to this day has not been easy. Indeed, it has been long and slow. This journey started way back in 1993, when the Federal High Court established its Abuja Division, the court then had just one judge and a handful of staff. For three years, the Federal High Court did not have a building of its own but depended on the Abuja High Court. Our judges could only sit after a judge of Abuja High Court had finished sitting for the day."

She continued: "The state of affairs was definitely inelegant for the status and honour of a judge, sitting in a Federal High Court in Abuja, the seat of the Federal Government of Nigeria. At a stage, because of the sheer accommodation difficulty, the court seriously considered moving the Abuja Division to either Minna or Lokoja. But then, that was considered as unbefitting and incompatible with the status of Abuja as the capital of Nigeria."

Ukeje then gave the pathetic description of the operational difficulties that the Federal High Court, Abuja faced when it was established.

She said: "Eventually, the restaurant building in OAU Quarters was allocated to the Federal High Court, and our address then became Federal High Court, Quarters, Maitama, Abuja."

On the cases the Federal High Court Abuja have settled for litigants, she said: "From 54 cases filed in the 1994 legal year, the Abuja Division today records 818 cases filed in 2004, and from January to August 2005, already 270 cases have been filed. Today, the Federal High Court has established an undisputed presence in Abuja with this complex".

Uwais applauded the achievements recorded by Ukeje and praised her for making it possible for the contract for the building of a permanent complex of the Federal High Court Abuja to be awarded by the judicial contract tenders board.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.