Profile of Benue State Judiciary

Share

The Benue State Judiciary began by touring sessions which were held by Judges of the then Benue Plateau High Court.

In 1973, Hon. Justice E.A. Adewuyi (of blessed memory) became the pioneer Resident Judge, a position he held until the creation of Benue State in 1976. Consequent upon this development, a substantive Chief Judge, Hon. Justice J.M. Adesuyin (now late) was appointed for the State. Two other Judges to wit: Hon. Justice Sylvester Umaru Onu, now a retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and Hon. Justice James Ogebe then in the acting capacity, and now a retired Justice of the Supreme Court were appointed. 

The need for expansion led to the appointment of the late Hon. Justice A.P. Anyebe and Hon. Justice A.I. Katsina Alu, now retired Justice of Nigeria. Hon. Justice Alhassan Idoko was elevated to the position of a Judge of the Benue State High Court albeit in acting capacity, on the 1st August, 1978 and rose to the exalted position of the Chief Judge of the State on the 14th May, 1985 before the cold hands of death snatched him on 31st March, 1999.

Hon. Justice N.C.O. Anuga (of blessed memory) was appointed to the High Court Bench on 1st October, 1980. He died in a car crash in 1987 while still in office. Hon. Justice L.G. Anoliefo (also of blessed memory) was appointed Judge of the High Court on 1st February, 1981 and was murdered in December, 1986. Hon. Justice Ali Umaru Eri retired Chief Judge of Kogi State and now, Administrator, National Judicial Institute, was appointed High Court Judge in Benue State on the 1st December, 1981, but was deployed to Kogi State following the creation of that State in 1991. Hon. Justice Terna U. Fefa Puusu was elevated to the High Court Bench on the 1st November, 1984.

That elevation in 1984 was followed by that of Hon. Justice E.O. Ogbole and S.O. Ochimana on the 21st January, 1986. Hon. Justice A.P.B. Utsaha was appointed to the High Court Bench on the 30th October, 1986, while the late Hon. Justice A.J. Ikongbeh who died while in active service as a Justice of the Court of Appeal took his turn on the 3oth June, 1987. Other appointments were those of Hon. Justice Ejembi Eko, now a Justice of Court of Appeal and Justice Iorhemen Hwande who were elevated to the High Court Bench on 20th February, 1989. Hon. Justice T.S. Yakubu (who was later deployed to Kogi State) and J.S. Ikyegh had their turn on the 27th March, 1991, while Hon. Justice A.O. Onum was appointed on 1st August, the same year. Hon. Justice D.T. Ahura (of blessed memory) and Hon. Justice J.T. Tur, were appointed on the 1st February, 1993. The Hon. Justices A. Kaka’an, E.N. Kpojime and S.J. Ogwiji (of blessed memory) were appointed Judges of the High Court on the 30th November, 1995.

With the establishment of the Customary Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice A.P.B. Utsaha, was appointed its pioneer President along with Hon. Justice M.M. Igbetar, C.I. Olobia and S.S. Oyaje as Judges of the Court on the 30th November, 1995.

Upon the demise of Hon. Justice Alhassan Idoko in 1999, Hon. Justice Terna U. Fefa Puusu was appointed Chief Judge on the 27th May, 1999.

In the annals of our history, the 3rd day of May, 2001 remains a remarkable day in the sense of that six Judicial Officers (the highest number ever to be appointed in a single exercise), were appointed to the High Bench, Hon. Justices S.O. Itodo, M.A. Ikpambese, A.K. Baaki and T.A. Igoche, M.O. Gbim-Gbande and C.A. Idye were appointed for the High Court and Customary Court of Appeal respectively. The Hon. Justice E.O. Ogbole retired from the High Court Bench in 2002. Following the retirement of Hon. Justice A.P.B. Utsaha in March, 2003, Hon. Justice M.M. Igbetar was appointed as President of the Customary Court of Appeal and was sworn-in on 6th June, 2003. Following the retirement of Hon. Justice M.M. Igbetar OFR, on 17th October, 2015 upon attainment of the statutory age of 65 years, Hon. Justice C.A. Idye was appointed as President of the Customary Court of Appeal and was sworn-in on the 19th October, 2015.

Upon attainment of the statutory age of 65 years, Hon. Justice Terna U. Fefa Puusu took his final on the 19th October, 2005. Hon. Justice Iorhemen Hwande was sworn-in as the 4th Chief Judge of the State on the 6th day of April, 2006. But before this day Hon. Justice Ejembi Eko acted in that capacity for three months.

Hon. Justices W.I. Kpochi and T.A. Kume were appointed on the 18th January, 2007.

Hon. Justice Ejembi Eko was elevated to the Court of Appeal on 8th February, 2008.

Hon. Justices O.E. Ejembi and T.T. Asua were appointed to the High Court Bench on 18th August, 2008.

Hon. Justice S.S. Chaha was appointed Judge of the Customary Court of Appeal on 19th March, 2010.

Following the elevation of Justice J.S. Ikyegh and Justice J.T. Tur to the Court of Appeal, on the 26th July, 2010, five High Court Judges were appointed on the 26th October, 2010. They are: Hon. Justices P.T. Kwahar, D.E. Igoh, M.A. Abounu, J.M. Ijohor and D.M. Igyuse.

Hon. Justice T.M. Shija was appointed to the High Court Bench on 31st October, 2014.

Like an Oak tree, the Benue State High Court, which started as a touring sessions and metamorphosed into State Judiciary in 1976, soon blossomed into a sizeable Judiciary of about 1,190 staff.

The Judiciary is now comprised of eighteen Judges for the Hugh Court and four Judges for the Customary Court of Appeal.

For the High Court, nine of the Judges (the Chief Judge inclusive), are in Makurdi, two each in Gboko and Otukpo, one each in Katsina-Ala, Vandeikya, Okpoga, Adikpo and Sankera.

The lower Courts are part of the expansion. From the initial touring Magistrates to Resident Magistrates at Makurdi, Gboko and Otukpo, we now have thirty-three (33) Magistrates’ Court and a Juvenile Court.

In the Area Courts Sector, there are eighty four (84) Area Courts while all the Grade One Area Courts in each of the Local Government Headquarters were upgraded to the status of Upper Area Courts, with the aim of widening the jurisdiction of these courts thereby bringing justice to the door steps of those who seek it. With this development, the Grade 11 Area Courts have been phased out. We have a total twenty-five (25) Upper Area Courts and fifty-nine (59) Grade One Area Courts spread across the nooks and crannies of the State.

MANAGEMENT:

Following the enactment of the now repealed Decree Number 43 of 1998 which introduced the civil service reforms, the Benue State Judiciary was restructured into five departments namely:- Litigation, Inspectorates and Area Courts, Administration, Finance and Supplies, and Planning , Research and Statistics. The Chief Registrar is the head of the Management team. The departments are ach headed by a Director who is answerable to the Chief Registrar. There is also the Internal Audit Unit which is answerable to the Chief Registrar.