Body of SAN seeks elevation of chief judges to Sâ€™Court
Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen, and senior lawyers in the country yesterday paid glowing tributes to the late Supreme Court judge, Justice Paul Kemdilim Nwokedi, who passed away at the age of 91 at a valedictory session in honour of the late apex court jurist held at the Supreme Court.
The CJN described Nwokedi as a great jurist whose life is worthy of emulation by the incoming generation.
The CJN at the session attended by senior lawyers in the country, said Justice Nwokedi in his life time, stood for justice, integrity and reputation, adding that upon his retirement from active national service, the late jurist dedicated himself to a quite but laudable work of charity, with special interest in the training of Catholic priests and support for seminarians.
â€œAs a judge, he earned the reputation of being fair but firm as reflected in his judgment in the several cases he handled while on the bench. I recall the now renowned case of Obi Okongwu and the state that saw to the contempt conviction of the then Solicitor General of Anambra State for casting aspersions on the integrity of the judiciary.
â€œAnother notable and landmark case was the judgment of the then Anambra State High Court where the court under Nwokedi held that the practice of the governors to willy-nilly revoke the Certificates of Occupancy of lands belonging to their critics was not in accordance with the public purpose requirements of the Land Use Act,â€ he said.
The CJN then prayed serving judges, legal practitioners and family members of the late jurist to emulate his courageous life so as to build an egalitarian society.
In their tribute, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BoSAN) canvassed for the elevation of Chief Judges of High Courts, who have track record of performance to the Supreme Court as done in the appointment of the late Justice Nwokedi from the state High Court to the Supreme Court.
In a tribute delivered by Chief George Uwechuwe (SAN), the senior advocates claimed that the current practice of appointing Supreme Court Justices from Court of Appeal alone should be revisited, to pave the way for the elevation of the hard working judges from the High Courts to the apex court.
BoSAN recalled the appointment of Justice Anthony Iguh, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, Justice Kayode Eso, Justice E. B. Graig and Justice Saibu Kawu, who were chief judges of their respective states High Court and got elevated to Supreme Court, where they left indelible marks with their profound performance at the apex court bench.
â€œOn occasions like this, it is customary to use a tribute to such a legal luminary to address some issues that deserve the attention of members of the Bench and Bar, with particular reference to the service of the deceased jurist.
â€œIn the case of late Justice P. K. Nwokedi, there is the need to revisit the current practice of not elevating serving or retiring chief judges of the â€˜high courtsâ€™, who had served commendable, directly to the Supreme Court, instead of the Court of Appeal which is the current practice, to complete their service until they attain the age of seventy,â€ he said.
According to them, the urgent need to resume discussion on the issue, was underscored by the recent â€œGuidelines for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, which they said placed much greater emphasis on a candidateâ€™s â€œfinal judgments.â€