ARUA – The Principal Judge, Dr Flavian Zeija and the Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the Judiciary, Mr Pius Bigirimana have completed their week-long inspection of courts in West Nile region.
Flanked by the Arua Resident Judge, Isah Serunkuma, the PJ and PS, concluded their visit by inspecting Nebbi, Paidha and Pakwach courts.
Throughout the inspections, one thing clearly stood out, the poor quality of the courts in the region.
“This is detrimental to the image of the institution (Judiciary), one look at these court facilities and a litigant would wonder whether they will actually get justice,” the Principal Judge said, as he pointed at a caving-in wall at one of the courts.
The ongoing inspections are part of the national tour of all courts by the officials to assess challenges affecting the effective delivery of justice to all. During these visits, they inspect all areas vital to the operations of a court, among which are the archives, exhibit stores, holding cells, state of the court halls, chambers and registries.
Dr. Zeija decried the appalling state of the dilapidated rented buildings that house the courts. He added that in areas where the Judiciary has secured funds to construct its own buildings, funds are mismanaged and as a result the structures erected do not befit a judicial officer.
“You are supposed to be called worships, but how can someone worship you when you are seated in such a place?” wondered Dr Zeija.
That notwithstanding, the PJ called upon judicial officers to persevere and abide by the judicial conduct and oath taken to deliver justice to the people of Uganda in a timely manner.
The aversion of the quality of court buildings began in Adjumani when the two members of the Judiciary Top Management found a court building without a beam line. This as a result led to deep cracks on the walls and ceiling. While at Yumbe courts, other than the inappropriate architectural plan, local solutions had been improvised for the dysfunctional door locks.
In the case of Koboko and Paidha, although the structures are barely three years-old, there are more bare walls than painted structures. To compound this, there are deep cracks on the floor and ceilings.
Although there was a provisions for residential houses for the station magistrates, the bedroom can hardly accommodate a 6×5 bed. Access to the small sitting room is through another entrance. The outside latrine was closed with make-shift doors made out of iron sheets.
The PS/SJ vowed to investigate the anomalies. “Someone from Judiciary and the contractor must return our money or go to prison, not just blacklisting. I will get to the bottom of this,” he said.
The other major challenges identified in the region include long distant courts, poor transport infrastructure, inadequate accommodation and lack of necessary ICT equipment.
Additionally, there is insufficient funding for semi-capital offences, inadequate staffing and lack of court interpreters given that West Nile is a multilingual area with a number of refugee settlements.
In spite of these challenges, the PJ cautioned the judicial officers in the area against absenteeism and misconduct. He encouraged them that with the Administration of the Judiciary Act, the future was bright.
He added that the observations made will aid the Judiciary administration in proper planning.