Cross River State is among the few States in Nigeria that operate a functional multi-door court. The Calabar Multi-Door Court is a court connected initiative operating under the auspices of the Cross River State High Court, and it is designed to complement the conventional adversarial method of dispute resolution (litigation).
The Multi-Door Court was established in Calabar by the Honorable Chief Judge of Cross River State pursuant to the provisions of section 274 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which empowers the Chief Judge to make practice directions regulating the practice and procedure in the High Court of the State.
The Calabar Multi-Door Court building is located within the judiciary complex at Moore Road, Calabar, and it has a fine architectural design.
However, as we speak, the building is in an utter state of disrepair and imminently bound to collapse in no distant time.
Several portions of the building wall (and most especially the mediation hall) are fatally cracked from the structural foundation.
This poses a great danger and is, in fact, a death trap for the many litigants and adjudicators who sit there and genuflect daily bargaining for justice.
Enquiries made from some of the staff at the Multi-Door Court revealed that the building has remained in such state of disrepair for about a year now with no effort whatsoever to save the building from the impending collapse, except that two different inspection teams from the State judiciary headquarters had visited to inspect the building, yet nothing positive has been done.
A few meters away from the Multi-Door Court building, is a Magistrate Court No. 14/15. That courtroom too, is an eyesore. Lawyers and litigants are seen daily scampering for space owing to the very small nature of the courtroom.
The courtroom is just about 10 by 10 meters in size with only two small windows. It is poorly ventilated even as there is absolutely no electrical connection.
If something is not done urgently to address the space constraint and also properly ventilate the courtroom, one is afraid, Counsels and their Litigants and even the Presiding Magistrates might get choked someday and suffocate to death in that courtroom.
While we hope and pray that no such disaster would occur, it is imperative that the authorities concerned begin to take positive steps to address the challenges confronting that little but ever busy courtroom.
Indeed, the state of court infrastructures in Cross River State is appalling and a clear evidence of the long years of neglect of the judicial arm of government in the State.
The concept of judicial autonomy has remained a mirage as our judiciary is continuously being starved of funds.
It beggars belief that a fine architectural design like the Multi-Door Court building is left to wreck and suffer threat of collapsing.
The Honorable Chief Judge of Cross River State, as the kingpin and arrowhead of judicial administration in the State, must effectively rise to the occasion and be committed to maintaining court infrastructure within his domain.
On his part, the Governor of Cross River State, Senator Ben Ayade, must demonstrate total commitment towards the full implementation of judicial autonomy in the State. This will go a long way to help the Judiciary in the State to be financially viable and able to maintain their court infrastructure.
Eno Iyamba, Esq. is Legal Practitioner at Basic Rights Counsel (Barristers & Solicitors), Calabar.
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