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February 3, 20204min690

There’s anxiety among the  Justices of the Supreme Court as the number drops further from 14 to 13.

The judges are complaining of overwork as the retirement of Justice Amiru Sanusi takes effect today being Monday.

Particularly, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, has made his voice known repeatedly that he and his colleagues on the apex court’s bench are overworked.

Daily Mail reports that the constitution provides for 21 Justices as a full complement of the apex court’s bench.

The number of Justices of the Supreme Court reached 17 on January 18, 2019 when the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen (retd), swore in Justice Uwani Abba-Aji to the apex court’s bench.

But starting with the controversial exit of Justice Onnoghen from the bench in April 2019 and the retirement of Justices Kumai Akaahs and Sidi Bage last year, the number of the Supreme Court Justices dropped to 14.

In June 2019, the President Muhammadu Buhari, wrote a letter requesting the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammadu, to “initiate in earnest the process of appointing additional five Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to make the full complement of 21 Justices” as provided by the Constitution.

But the President has yet to act on the list of four Justices of the Court of Appeal recommended by the National Judicial Council and sent to him for appointment to the apex court’s bench since October 2019.

A statement by the NJC’s Director, Information, Mr Soji Oye, had stated that the council, at its meeting held on October 22 and 23, 2019, recommended Justices Adamu Jauro, Emmanuel Agim, C. Oseji, and Helen Ogunwumiju.

While the President was being awaited to forward the names of the nominees to the Senate for confirmation, Justice Akaahs retired from the Supreme Court’s bench on December 12, 2019.

But reacting on behalf of the Nigerian Bar Association, the association’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kunle Edun, said the delay in the process of appointing four judges recommended by the NJC for the apex court’s bench, had “created unhealthy burden on the Supreme Court Justices who are now forced to overwork themselves.”

Edun added that it was worrying that the Supreme Court had been unable to get its full complement of 21 Justices.

He stated, “It is worrying that the Supreme Court has yet to have its full complement of Justices on the Supreme Court bench. The recent recommendation of the National Judicial Council on the elevation of some Justices of the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court has yet to be acted upon by the Presidency and the Senate.

“The President is to approve the nominations and present the same to the Senate for confirmation.

“This delay has created an unhealthy burden on the Supreme Court Justices who are now forced to overwork themselves. In many cases, appeals stay in the Supreme Court for 10 years before one can get a hearing date.

“This should not be the case. When justice is delayed it could propel litigants to resort to other options to settle scores, which would not help the society.

“The Nigerian Bar Association, therefore, urges the Federal Government and all parties involved to consider the recommendations of the NJC quickly. It’s been about five months now and still nothing done.”

(Additional sources from agencies)

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