Justice Rita Pemu, who retired from public service on Monday, has called for adequate security for judges while describing her experience in the hands of gunmen as worrying.
Justice Pemu, who stated this during a valedictory session held at the Court of Appeal in Benin after 29 years, said her driver and two vehicles in her convey were still missing.
She noted that security should be improved around judicial officers who are daily exposed to difficult challenges on the job.
She said, “The issue of security for judges should be at the front burner as it appears that the judiciary and indeed judicial officers are targets. Just a couple of weeks ago, the chairman of a Customary Court in Imo State was dragged out of the court and shot dead in the course of performing his judicial functions. About two Sundays after, a court in Imo State was burnt down by hoodlums.
“On February 20, 2022, while travelling from Benin to Owerri, I was kidnapped by hoodlums within the Ihiala axis of Anambra State. It was only by the grace of God that I escaped with some of my staff. My driver and the two cars in our convoy are still missing as I speak,” she added.
Justice Pemu, who also clocked 70 on Monday, said she had the best in her career at the Owerri Division because she was able to navigate very difficult challenges.
She also said the judiciary must shun corruption as the courts remained the last hope of the common man.
She added, “I leave behind in the Owerri Division, a sanitised registry and a calm court. I am certain that the lawyers and staff in that division will attest to this fact.”
Speaking to journalists, the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, said there would have been crisis in Nigeria due to the outcome of the February 25 presidential election if not for the judiciary.
He also called for the decentralisation of the country’s security system to check insecurity in Nigeria.
Obaseki said, “I will say that the judiciary in Nigeria is the last hope for the citizens. You all saw what happened in our country on February 25. The reason why we have the peace in the country is because people know that there is an institution, the judiciary, where people believe and hope that they can get justice and therefore they have sheath their swords until the outcome of the judicial process,” he added.
The high point of the event was the public presentation of her book, ‘Evidence of Grace’.