Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has advocated the adoption of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in addressing issues before the probate courts.
He said this has become necessary to ensure immediate resolution of family disputes, especially where prosecutors develop cold feet over cases.
Governor Wike gave the advice when he formally inaugurated the Rivers State Family Court at the High Court Complex in Port Harcourt on Monday. He also unveiled the ‘Family Court Rules, the Guide’, and the book ‘The Child, Ethics and the Law: A Simplified Law Guide for Children and Young Persons.’
Governor Wike noted that prosecutors often clandestinely withdraw prosecution of child’s rights abuse cases, which frustrates the case, and justice for the child is eventually denied.
To forestall such a situation, he urged the judiciary to do everything possible to achieve the essence of establishing the Family Court, which is to engender a child-friendly justice system that treats children with dignity and fairness.
Governor Wike spoke of hindsight of experience of what often transpires and why prosecutors discontinue such cases of abuse of children.
The governor stated that children suffer a great deal of defilement at early age, but the lack of interest in prosecution to pursue such cases to logical conclusion serves as another form of injustice to children.
Governor Wike pledged his support to what the Family Court truly represents, even if its establishment is coming about 13 years after the State Assembly first domesticated the Child’s Rights Act in 2009.
He advised against the attitude of giving excuses which could hamper the operations of the court now that the State has joined the league of States with Family Court.
In her speech, the presiding judge of the Family Court, Hon. Justice Suzzette Eberechi Nyesom-Wike explained that the essence of child-friendly justice is to re-orientate and rehabilitate the child.
The court, she said, will also reintegrate, bring relief and redress to the child, and not inflict corporal punishment or hardship on the child, no matter the delinquency.
Justice Nyesom-Wike spoke further, saying that since joining the bench in 2012, she desired to ensure that there was a justice system that guaranteed the effective implementation of all children’s rights at the highest attainable level.
However, she noted that the journey that has been actualised today did not start until two years ago, despite the domestication of the Child’s Rights Act by the Rivers State House of Assembly in 2009.
Justice Nyesom-Wike stated that the Family Court functions in Port Harcourt with four jurisdictions; two High Court Judges and two Magistrates.
According to her, the family court will spread to all the Local Government areas to ease access to justice across the State as the need arises and resources allow.
“The court will be age-appropriate, speedy, and diligent. It will also focus on the child’s needs, respect the right to due process and the right to private and family life.
“It will also be accessible to all, including litigants, lawyers and non-lawyers who have the right to participate and personally conduct their cases in the court.”
In his address, Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Simeon Amadi, informed that the Rivers State judiciary has furnished and equipped a befitting place for use as Family Court. He said the bench is set to commence appropriate Family Court proceedings at the High Court and Magistrate Court levels in tackling designated cases.
On his part, the Attorney General of Rivers State and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor, lauded the establishment of the Family Court and said it is another feat in the administration of justice in Rivers State.
Former president of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Onueze C.J Okocha, SAN and chairman NBA Port Harcourt branch, Victor Benibo, delivered goodwill messages on behalf of the Body of Benchers and NBA, respectively.