Lawyers Express Hope
by crossriverwatch admin
Today, the 5th October, 2012 the Chief Judge of Cross River State of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Dorothy Eyamba-Idem is bowing out as she attains the mandatory age of 65 years old which is the constitutionally prescribed age of retirement for Judicial Officers in the High Court of the 36 States of the Federation and the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Justice Eyamba-Idem was appointed Chief Judge of Cross River State in 2002. She is the 8th Chief Judge of Cross River State since the State was created in May, 1967. The most senior Judge in the High Court of Cross River State of Nigeria after Justice Eyamba-Idem bows out, Honourable Justice Okoi Ikpi Itam is expected to take over from her immediately.
Her Lordship, Honourable Justice Dorothy Eyamba-Idem during her tenure as the Chief Judge of the state made appreciable efforts in reforming the Civil Procedure Rules of the High Courts and greatly reduced the length of time that cases spend in court. She also extended the reform to the magistrate courts across the state. She pioneered the idea of family courts to deal with issues of child abuse.
A cross section of lawyers in Cross River State who reacted to her retirement said they will miss her. The Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association in the state, Bar. Effiok Ekong told crossriverwatch that the state is now catching up with the rest of the country with the reforms that the outgoing Chief Judge introduced.
He said: “I think Justice Eyamba did very well. During her tenure, she worked on the civil procedures rules and greatly reduced the lifespan of cases in court. With those new rules, the life span of some cases have been reduced from what used to be some 18-20years to just 2years. She also did the same thing at the Magistrates Courts which are closer to the people and handle more cases relating directly to the people. She also introduced the idea of family courts to try violations of the child’s rights act, she commissioned the multi-door court house and increased awareness about alternative conflict resolution and this helped to de-congest the courts. We do hope that her successor will also introduce reforms that will bring justice closer to the people.”
Her successor, His Lordship, Honourable Justice Itam is 58years old and was called to the Nigerian Bar in July 1977. He was born on the 18th May, 1954. In 1976, young Okoi Itam was the Nigerian representatives of Philip Jessup International Court Moot Competition in Washington D. C, United States of America.
Justice Itam started his legal career as a Legal Officer in the NYSC Legal Aid Scheme from 1977 – 1978 in the old Bendel State of Nigeria. After the end of the mandatory National Youth Service programme he joined the defunct Mercantile Bank of Nigeria as a Legal Officer. He left the services of the Mercantile Bank in 1978 to start a flourishing and successful private legal practice which terminated in 1991 when he was appointed a Judge of the High Court of Cross River State. He was sworn as Judge of the High Court of Cross River State of Nigeria on the 25th November, 1991.
Cross River lawyer and Human Rights Advocate, Bar. Obono Obla told crossriverwatch that the incoming Chief Judge, Honourable Justice Okoi Ikpi Itam has the reputation of being a progressive, forward looking, brilliant, industrious, fearless and courageous judge.
He said “Justice Itam came to national limelight and consciousness when he was appointed Chairman of the Tribunal of Inquiry constituted by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to investigate Secret Cult Activities in the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State of Nigeria from 2000 – 2001. He executed this seeming arduous assignment with aplomb and alacrity and brought to bear his reputation as a fearless and cerebral jurist; so much that soon after the end of the work of the tribunal, the Federal Government sent him on secondment to the Republic of Gambia to serve as a Judge of the High Court of Gambia”.
“While in the Republic of Gambia he was appointed Judge-Advocate for Gambia Armed Forces from 2001-2004. He was appointed Acting Chief Justice of the Republic of Gambia in 2002. He also served as a Judge of the Republic of Gambia Court of Appeal from 2004-2004. The foreign service of Justice Itam in the Republic of Gambia ended in 2004 and he returned to the Judiciary in Cross River State and was appointed Chairman of Local Government Election Appeals Tribunal in 2007”.
The Judiciary in the Cross River State of Nigeria as one of the oldest State Judiciaries has surely not lived to its billing but undoubtedly there is a ray or glimmer of hope that the ascension of Honourable Justice Okoi Ikpi Itam to the pinnacle of the High Court of Cross River State would usher in an era of tremendous growth, rejuvenation and assertion of its independence”.
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