The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Owerri Branch has urged Imo State Governor Hope Uzodinma to deploy modern gadgets for early detection of crimes and criminals in the state.

Its chairman, J.I. Ogamba, who spoke during a recent courtesy call on Uzodinma lamented the murder of former Owerri branch chairman Mr N.H. Nwankwor

Nwankwor was killed in his Owerri office last month in broad daylight.

Ogamba said: “On February 6, 2021, N. H. Nwankwo, the former Chairman of NBA Owerri Branch, was gruesomely murdered in his office situated on one of the busiest streets in Owerri. Earlier in the month, a lawyer escaped the claws of kidnappers along Bank Road in broad daylight.

“It is no longer news that the (Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Owerri) Bishop Moses Chikwe was kidnapped beside his residence.  Many other similar incidents in Imo State especially during the yuletide underscore the frightening rate of insecurity in our state.  The Bar is not unmindful of your sincere efforts in combating crimes and criminality in the State.

“We, therefore, urge you to deploy modern facilities and gadgets to quicken the detection of crimes and arrest of criminals.”

He commended the governor for his “mature handling” of the Covid-19 pandemic and the #EndSARS protests “which would have engulfed the entire state”, adding that the timely imposition of curfew and other security measures impacted positively in quelling the recent Orlu crisis.

Ogamba added: “The Bar, as the watchdog of the society, has the responsibility among others to defend the independence of the judiciary in Nigeria as well as see to, the improvement of the administration of justice sector and the promotion/protection of the principles of the rule of law and respect for the enforcement of fundamental rights, human rights, peoples right and rights of access to courts of citizens.

“In the light of the foregoing, the Bar implores you to initiate the appointment of more judges in line with the High Court Law of Imo State which prescribes a full complement of 31 Judges.  As of today, the High Court bench has 22 judges and some are on the verge of retirement. We urge you to also facilitate the establishment of more courts, particularly customary courts which are closest to the grassroots. It is saddening that in some customary courts, particularly Nwaorieubi and Uratta, the Courts have on average about forty cases per day.  It is also heartbreaking that some Customary Courts operate in facilities not befitting to be Court halls.”

He thanked the Uzodinma for the vehicles recently presented to High Court Judges but implored him to do the same for magistrates, law officers and customary courts chairmen.

“It is painful to see some Magistrates and Chairmen of Customary Courts struggling for space in public buses with litigants who have cases before them.  This should not be so,” Ogamba said.

He added: “In the same token, the Bar urges that the emoluments of legal officers attached to Local Governments be harmonized in line with the emoluments of Lawyers in the Ministry of Justice.  There is also the need to train Lawyers in Government employ as prosecutors in line with the provisions of Section 182 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) of Imo State.

“The Bar commends you for restoring 75 per cent of the salaries of the law officers in the Ministry of Justice and pray Your Excellency to graciously direct that the arrears be paid.

“In the same token, we implore that the same gesture be extended to legal officers attached to Local Governments who also suffered the same fate.  Also, the Bar requests you to equip the offices of the Law officers in order to discharge their duties effectively.  It is not in the interest of Government for Law officers to take sensitive Government documents outside the premises of their offices to public business centres.”

Responding, Uzodinma described Nwankwo’s assassination as “evidence of human wickedness”.

He also pledged to partner with NBA Owerri in its quest to immortalise the late Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, former Justice Sylvester Nsofor.

Uzodimma also promised to critically look at the other demands made of him by the lawyers, adding that he would not disappoint their “reasonable expectations.”