Oyo State governor, ‘Seyi Makinde, on Friday, said that his administration will continue to prioritise developments that can strengthen the judicial arm of government.
He equally promised to continue to provide facilities and avenues to make the work of the judiciary easier in the state.
The governor stated this at the Oyo State High Court, Ring Road, Ibadan, during a valedictory service in honour of the Chief Judge of the state, Honourable Justice Muntar Abimbola, who is retiring from active service this week.
A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, quoted the governor as hailing Abimbola as a defender of the independence of the judiciary and a patriot, who worked hand-in-hand with him in the interest of the state.
The governor, who described the retiring Chief Judge as his teacher and adviser, appreciated him for his service to Oyo State and its people.
He said: “If you see us here today, I said specifically that I will be here to honour the outgoing Chief Judge, Justice Muntar Abimbola, who has been a solid adviser to me.
“One major issue that cropped up between us was when I just got into office. I decided to move the Permanent Secretaries around Ministries and so I took the Solicitor-General to one Ministry. But Justice Abimbola came to me and said that I could not do such.
“I told him I could do it because I am the governor of the state, but he explained the dynamics to me. He said that the Solicitor-General is a professional and as a lawyer, his career does not end at the Solicitor-General or Permanent Secretary position and that if I didn’t leave him in the Ministry of Justice, then, I might unknowingly have ended his career.
“So, I had a long thought and said to myself that just when you think you have seen it all, you will meet people that will impact you with knowledge on some of the things you assume you are versatile with. So, the retiring Chief Judge is also my teacher and from that point, we started our engagement.
“We have worked together for almost four years. Though he always defended the independence of the judiciary, we have both worked in the interest of the people of Oyo State and that is the number one driving force.”
The governor equally praised the cordial relationship that has existed between the executive and the judiciary under the watch of the outgoing Chief Judge, saying that the state government would continue to maintain cordiality and continue to prioritise the welfare of the judiciary.
“The relationship between the Executive and the Judiciary has been better to the extent that when they came to defend their budget in 2021, I added N4 billion to their budget, because I felt we must modernise the court. I can see some of the work going on and a lot still has to be done.
“I want to give you the assurance that the administration will continue to prioritise the welfare of the judiciary and also provide facilities that would make your job a lot easier.
“I have listened to your requests, which the chairperson of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ibadan branch, listed and I can tell you that they will be addressed.
“Some of the things the NBA chairperson mentioned will require enforcement and I have taken judicial notice as we keep engaging,” he added.
Governor Makinde also wished the outgoing Chief Judge well in his future endeavours, giving thanks to God for allowing him to end well, saying: “Our celebrant of today, we always pray that when we start well, we should end well and that is what we are seeing here today. It is good to start well but to end well is even better, and we thank God you are ending well today.
“We thank God for what he has used you to do for the Judiciary and Oyo State in general. You have been a solid adviser to me. So, I want to thank God and wish you well.”
In his speech, the retiring Chief Judge described the governor as an overcomer and an individual who always “cares about the prosperity of others.”
He said: “By experience, I look forward to a greater freedom now as I am immensely happy and proud of the years past and exceedingly hopeful of the future. I remain optimistic, full of life, grateful for the years I have lived and what I have been able to achieve.”
Also in her remarks, the NBA chairperson, Ibadan Branch, Mrs. Folashade Adeniyi, noted that Justice Abimbola played a significant role towards the decongestion of custodial centres and ensured speedy administration of justice.
She described the retiring Chief Judge as “a golden legend, a unique judicial officer with landmark achievements, an ebullient judge who has made his mark in sands of time,” adding that Abimbola has contributed to widening the scope of law in Nigeria.
She, however, called on the state government to appoint more judges to fill some courts in order to fast-track justice dispensation, saying that litigants lament on the hurdles they go through in seeking for justice.