By Friday Idachaba, Lokoja.
Justice Alaba Omolaye-Ajileye, retiring Judge of Kogi State High Court has called on judges in the country to liberate themselves from every form of influence, self-imposed shackles and fetters that inhibit independence.
Omolaye-Ajileye who made the call at a Valedictory Court Session in his honour on retirement at the state High Court Complex in Lokoja said their independence was possible if they exhibited, at all times, requisite judicial character.
The Jurist who attained the statutory retirement age of 65 on February 15, culminating in the Valedictory Court Session in his honour frowned at the personal impediments the judges had imposed on themselves.
He said that the qualities of courage, firmness, integrity, uprightness, patience, open mindedness, understanding of the law, compassion, humility, and courtesy should be inseparable from the personality of a judge who desires to be independent.
“Our constitution provides a sound and sure foundation for us to have an independent Judiciary. But then, first and foremost, the judges need to free themselves from every form of influence, except law.
“The personal impediment that a judge constitutes to himself in hindering his independence far outweighs any imaginable institutional or external barrier or inhibition.
“Indisputably, Judges constitute the first pillar of the edifice of justice delivery system. They must, first and foremost, liberate themselves from self-imposed shackles and fetters that inhibit independence”, he said.
Omolaye-Ajileye said that the second pillar of the justice system was the Bar constituting the lawyers and described the administration of justice as a joint venture in which the Lawyers and judges were active participants.
“The strength of the Bench is the ultimate success of the Bar and vice versa. Similarly the degeneration of one will surely cause the down fall of the other”, he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Body of Senior Advocates, Jibrin S. Okutepa (SAN) said that Justice Omolaye-Ajileye ought to have gotten elevation to the Court of Appeal or even to the Supreme Court where his wealth of experience would have benefitted the nation’s legal system.
He said that the legal profession and indeed, the nation had incurred great loss in the retirement of the legal icon as his experience and scholarship were substantially unused “because the system we operate does not appreciate merit.
“As we celebrate with you, the legal profession needs to weep for allowing the jurist of extra-ordinary strength of character to end his career on the High Court bench”, he said.
In his speech, the Chief Judge of Kogi State, Justice Josiah Majebi, described Justice Omolaye-Ajileye as a refined, gentle and quintessential Judge whose presence exudes the qualities of a responsible judicial officer.
He said that the jurist was not given to frivolities, an excellent scholar, an author whose books have been and will no doubt continue to be resource materials not only to the Judiciary of Kogi State, but to Nigeria and the Legal System in general.
“He has at various times served as a member of various State and National Assembly Election Petition Tribunals as well as Governorship Election Petition Tribunals in various States. He is a Member of the Editorial Board of the Law Report of Northern Nigeria.
“My Lord maintained the highest standards on the bench in order to earn public trust and preserve the integrity of our profession. No doubt as he retires, he will be thoroughly sought after to lead
discussions on Electronic Evidence”, Justice Majebi said.
The Nigerian Pilot reports that the special Court Session was witnessed by legal luminaries from within and outside the state, serving and retired judges, representatives of the state government who rendered their speeches as well as friends and family members of Justice Alaba Omolaye-Ajileye.