Chief Justice of Niger State, Justice Halima Ibrahim Abdulmalik, couldn't control her emotion over the killing of the Registrar of Sharia Court, Ibbi, Mallam Mohammad Namaru, by armed bandits.
The registrar was kidnapped on April 11, 2023, at the court premises by armed men suspected to be bandits and killed by his abductors.
Justice Halima Ibrahim Abdulmalik, who recalled the dastardly act of the killing during the special court session to mark the 2023/2024 legal year of the state high court, stated that the activities of armed bandits in Niger State have forced the closure of four magistrate courts and 11 Sharia courts.
"I will not conclude without referring to the issue of insecurity in the state, which has forced us to close four magistrate courts.
"I also understand that eleven Sharia courts have been closed down as a result. Worse yet, on April 11, 2023, Mallam Mohammad Namaru, a registrar of Shari'a court, Ibbi, was kidnapped at the court premises by armed bandits.
"He was later killed by his abductors. May his gentle soul rest in peace," Justice Halima Ibrahim Abdulmalik said in an emotional-laden tone.
She called on the Niger State government to extend its magnanimity to the family and give the young children of the deceased scholarship for their education, noting that it will not only help the family but will boost the resolve to continue to unconditionally serve "our state and our country".
Speaking on the 2023/2024 legal year, the chief judge disclosed that the event was meant to renew individual determination as judicial officers to uphold the rule of law and to strengthen the integrity of the bench to do justice to all manner of people.
According to the Chief Judge, the judiciary in Niger State is to a large extent successful in maintaining its independence and protecting its impartiality, ensuring that the judiciary will always strive to live up to its statutory responsibilities without fear, favour, affection, or ill will.
She explained that despite the paucity of funds, the judiciary under her leadership has made tremendous progress in terms of infrastructural development in the last year, starting by embarking on radical reforms and massive renovations of five magistrate courts and six offices within the high court complex in Minna.
The essence of observing the legal year, according to the Chief Judge, was to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the work done and achievements recorded in the proceeding years, identify the challenges encountered, and make projections for the future.
Speaking earlier, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Niger State, Barrister Nasir Muazu, disclosed that in the past years, the judiciary has witnessed the legal community's resilience and adaptability in the face of unprecedented challenges.
He pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has forced the legal community to rethink the way to deliver justice, "pushing us to embrace technology, virtual courtrooms, and remote legal proceedings".
This, according to him, has demonstrated the flexibility and dedication of legal professionals to ensure that justice prevails no matter the circumstances.
Niger State Governor, Hon. Mohammed Umaru Bago, has challenged the judiciary to remain committed to the principles of justice, fairness, and equality.
The governor made the call during the special court session to celebrate the 2023/2024 legal year, held at the State Judiciary Complex in Minna.
He acknowledged the role the judiciary plays in upholding the rule of law.
He applauded the efforts of the judiciary in protecting the rights of citizens and maintaining the integrity of the legal system.
While appreciating the steadfastness of their commitment to justice, the governor said, "We have witnessed the resilience of our legal system in the face of various challenges.
The court has continued to dispense justice impartially and efficiently despite limited resources and a growing caseload".
He then called on them to ensure access to justice was timely and accessible, explore innovative strategies that would quicken the resolution of cases, and continue to promote ethical conduct and professionalism, among others.
He promised that his administration would strengthen the existing relationship between the executive and judiciary and support it in the areas of welfare, promotion, accommodation, and mobility, among others.
Chief Judge of Niger State, Justice Halima Ibrahim Abdulmalik, said the state judiciary has inaugurated a monitoring team to check incidences of thuggery and insecurity bedeviling the state in line with the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law Section 528.
Justice Halima disclosed that in a bid to enhance the administration of justice in the state, her office has abolished trial within trial in criminal cases to facilitate the speedy dispensation of justice, with a call on members of the bar to desist from such practices as such actions will no longer be tolerated.
The Chief Judge disclosed that 3,418 cases were pending in the year 2022/2023, 486 were freshly filed, 2,932 were brought forward from the preceding year with 448 cases disposed, and for the Magistracy, 8,840 cases were filed, 5,478 were disposed, and 3,243 were pending.
A legal year is an annual event that ushers in the new legal year and also provides an opportunity for members to reflect on their successes and challenges and look into the goals of the year ahead.