Gov. Simon Lalong of Plateau on Friday urged judges in the state to be firm, while handling cases involving kidnapping and rape.
Lalong gave the advice when he inaugurated the new President of the Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Sati Dapit, and five other judges of the High Court at the Government House, Jos.
The new High Court judges are Justices Naankwat Shaseet and Buetnaan Bassi.
Justices Pauline Njar, Edwin Sati Munlang and Georgina Dashe were sworn in as Customary Court of Appeal Judges.
The governor underscored the need for judges to be very firm while handling rape cases, as the victims were left helpless and with health challenges, while kidnapping cases scared away investors from the state.
He expressed concern that rape and kidnapping suspects were often granted bail, in spite of the gravity of their alleged offences.
Lalong stressed that the granting of bail to such suspects posed security threats.
“When I met with stakeholders recently, concerns were raised about the prosecution of suspects who are arrested for kidnapping. Some of them, we understand, do not get to be arraigned as when due and even get released without charge despite evidence tendered to law enforcement agents.
“While we are addressing the issue with the police relating to the arrest, investigation and prosecution (of suspected kidnappers), I want to appeal to our judges to be very firm in trying such cases when brought before them, as kidnapping is fast becoming an industry with no one immune from the menace,” he said.
The governor advised the newly sworn-in judges not to be compromised or tempted by mouth-watering proposals.
“I charge the new judges to ensure that they live up to their oath of office in dispensing justice without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.
“That is the only way we can sustain the fabric of our society, which we have chosen to predicate on the rule of law, and which guarantees the equal treatment of citizens,” he said.
Lalong said that the new appointments were part of efforts by the government to fill vacancies in the judiciary so as to enable it to deal with the backlog of cases.
He pointed out that in spite the embargo on employment, his administration granted approval for the judiciary to recruit more than 200 staff, including relevant support employees.
“Today’s swearing in of these new judges is, therefore, a positive development, as it will close the gap and improve access to justice by all citizens and, indeed, all those who seek justice in Plateau State,’’ he said.
Lalong said that his administration was committed to the rule of law, while ensuring that judiciary operations guaranteed equity, justice and fairness to the citizens, irrespective of ethnic, economic, religious and political considerations.
He pledged that his administration would complete the new High Court headquarters complex before the end of his tenure, stressing that it would create an enabling environment for the judiciary to perform their duties diligently.
Lalong said he has approved the request for the training of judicial officials within and outside Nigeria, as part of his commitment to building the capacity of the judiciary.
“We hope to sustain this initiative, so that our judges will keep abreast of contemporary developments in their profession,” he said.
The governor said effort was being made for the three arms of government to operate independently, saying that the State Account Allocation Committee (SAAC) had been established as a foundation for the implementation of financial autonomy.
“This we have done despite the fact that formal discussions on the modalities for implementing financial autonomy at the federal and state levels have yet to be concluded and the judiciary is being carried along in this process,” he said.
Responding on behalf of his colleagues, Justice Dapit thanked the governor for the confidence bestowed on them to serve God and humanity.
He assured him of their commitment to their duties and compliance with their oath of office.