Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau, addressing stakeholders during a meeting to discuss the COVID-19 situation in the state, on Monday at Government House Jos.
Lalong gave the advice while swearing-in the new President of the Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Sati Dapit, and five other judges of the High Court at the Government House, Jos.
The new High Court Judges are Justices Naankwat Shaseet and Buetnaan Bassi.
Justices Pauline Njar, Edwin Sati Munlang and Georgina Dashe were sworn-in as Customary Court of Appeal Judges.
The governor said firmness was required in handling rape cases as victims are left helpless and with health challenges, while kidnapping cases scare away investors.
He expressed concern that rape and kidnapping suspects were granted bail in spite of the gravity of their alleged offences.
Lalong said granting of bail to such suspects posed security threats.
“When I met with stakeholders recently, concerns were raised about prosecution of suspects who are arrested for kidnapping. Some of them, we understand, do not get to be arraigned as when due and even get released without charge despite evidence tendered to law enforcement agents.
“While we are addressing the issue with the police relating to arrest, investigation and prosecution, I want to appeal to our judges to be very firm in trying such cases when brought before them, as kidnapping is fast becoming an industry with no one immune from the menace,” the governor said.
He advised the newly sworn-in judicial officers not to be compromised or tempted by mouth-watering proposals.
“I charge the new judges to ensure that they live up to their oath of office in dispensing justice without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.
“That is the only way we can sustain the fabric of our society which we have chosen to predicate on the rule of law and which guarantees the equal treatment of citizens,” he said.
Lalong said the new appointments were part of effort by the government to fill vacancies in the judiciary to enable the latter to deal with the backlog of cases.
He pointed out that in spite the embargo on employment, his administration granted approval for the judiciary to recruit more than 200 staff, including relevant support employees.
“Today’s swearing in of these new judges is, therefore, a positive development as it will close the gap and improve access to justice by all citizens and indeed all those who seek justice in Plateau State,’’ he said.
The governor said his administration was committed to the rule of law and in ensuring that the judiciary operations guarantee equity, justice and fairness to Plateau people, irrespective of ethnic, economic, religious, political and other orientations.
He said his administration would complete the new High Court headquarters complex before the end of his tenure, stressing that it would create an enabling environment for the judiciary to perform their duties diligently.
Lalong said he has approved the request for the training of judicial officials within and outside Nigeria, as part of his commitment to building the capacity of the judiciary.
“We hope to sustain this initiative so that our judges will keep abreast of contemporary developments in their profession,” he said.
The governor said effort was being made for the three arms of government to operate independently, saying the State Account Allocation Committee (SAAC) has been established as a foundation for the implementation of financial autonomy.
“This we have done despite the fact that formal discussions on the modalities for implementing financial autonomy at the federal and state levels have yet to be concluded and the judiciary is being carried along in this process,” he said.
Responding on behalf of his colleagues, Justice Dapit thanked the governor for the confidence bestowed on them to serve God and humanity.
He assured him of their commitment to their duties and compliance with their oath of office.