From Eric Ikhilae, Abuja
There is concern in the judiciary over President Muhammadu Bubari’s failure to act on National Judicial Council’s (NJC’s) recommendation to him to appoint eight Supreme Court justices.
Section 230 (1) of the Constitution recommended 21 justices for the court but it currently has 12.
The NJC, between last October 2019 and this August, recommended eight Court of Appeal justices for elevation to the Supreme Court, but the President had not sent their names to the Senate for confirmation.
The latest of such recommendations was announced by the NJC in a statement on August 14: Mohammed L. Garba (Northwest); Tijjani Abubakar (Northeast); Abdu Aboki (Northwest); and Mohammed M. Saulawa (Northwest).
In October 23, 2019, four justices of the Court of Appeal were rcommended by NJC to the President: Adamu Jauro (Northeast); Emmanuel A. Agim (Southsouth); C. Oseji (Southsouth); and Helen M. Ogunwumiju (Southwest).
Stakeholders are worried Buhari is not acting in concert with his aspiration for the Judiciary.
They noted the President had, while addressing the Annual General Conference of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), said he would ensure prompt justice delivery, particularly in criminal cases.
Stakeholders wonder why the President would tarry on the recommendations for appointments to the Supreme Court.
The President, in June 2019, through his spokesman, Garba Shehu, wrote the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, on the need to appoint more Justices to the Supreme Court.
He said: ‘‘Pursuant to Section 230 (2) A&B of the Constitution 1999 (as amended), I request that you initiate the process of appointing five Justices of the Supreme Court to make 21 Justices as provided by the Constitution.
‘‘This is in line with the government’s agenda of repositioning the Judiciary and Supreme Court for greater efficiency, with a view to reducing the backlog of appeals pending at the Supreme Court,” Buhari said.
Justice Muhammad has lamented the challenge posed by the dwindling number of justices at the court.
At a valedictory session for Justice Amiru Sanusi, who retired from the court this year, the CJN regretted that the rank of justices at the court was depleting without replacement.
Muhammad said: “You will recall that barely seven weeks ago, Thursday, December 12, 2019, we assembled here to honour our brother, Justice Kumai Bayang Aka’ahs… in a similar valedictory session.
“That ceremony painfully occasioned the depleting of our ranks at the Supreme Court. In a similar fashion, this session, too, is billed to further drastically reduce the number of Supreme Court justices as low as 13.
“This is not cheering news in view of the ever increasing number of appeals that flood the court daily.
“The litigious nature of Nigerians gives no space for the justices to rest their nerves.
“We are inundated and suffocated with cases of different types that we can hardly have time for ourselves and families,” the CJN said.