Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, has canvassed for the amendment of the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction as contained in the 1999 Constitution so that not all cases will terminate in the apex court.
Making the call in Abuja when the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters led by its Chairman, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, paid him a courtesy visit, the CJN expressed concern over the number of appeals pending before the apex court.
He therefore called on the National Assembly to as a matter of urgency amend the constitution for timely dispensation of justice and to reduce the stress arising from the heavy burden of appeals on the Justices of the Supreme Court.
Justice Muhammad disclosed that most of the justices don’t sleep for 12 hours as recommended by stress managers, adding that they do not just give judgment but do so with cogent reasons.
“We don’t write judgment merely by stating that so, so, so, and so cases were filed by this and that, and end it up by saying appeal is hereby dismissed or upheld. We have to give reasons which is the bedrock of judgment writing.”
According to him, the nation’s Supreme Court is not only the busiest apex court in the world but the entire judiciary of the country also remains the best across the globe.
He said: ‘’Nigerian Judiciary is one of the best in the world; and if nobody tells you, I am telling you today.
‘’The constitution enjoins the Supreme Court to have 21 justices, yet we are having less than that number. We will have to appoint more justices to fill the gap soon.”
The CJN also complained of the insufficient fund allocated annually to the judiciary, insisting that the judiciary is highly underfunded.
According to him, ‘’If you see the amount allocated to the judiciary, it is far less than what is given to some ministries. Salaries of the judicial officers are also stale for over 12 years running, and I hope you would also look at that.’’
Speaking earlier, Senator Bamidele said both the Senate Standing Orders 2015 and the amended 1999 Constitution empower his committee to oversee the Federal Judiciary.
He said as a matter of tradition, the committee usually pays courtesy visit to the CJN as the head of the judicial arm of government.
‘’We are here today to keep faith with the time honoured tradition of the committee,’’ he said.
He described the visit as a homecoming to all the 14 member-committee, who are lawyers and indeed a forum to interact and familiarise themselves with the CJN in order to find out the progress made by the judiciary so far as well as the challenges facing the judiciary.
“This, no doubt, would enable us to make appropriate legislative interventions in times ahead for the betterment of the Judiciary,” he said.
According to him, the judiciary plays a very crucial role in the sustenance and deepening of democratic core values which informs why the committee would therefore make necessary interventions to strengthen and guarantee the independence of the judicial arm.
He said the committee would make appropriate legislative interventions to ensure proper funding for the judiciary.
‘’The committee would work in collaboration with the judiciary to review laws and embark on reforms – including amendment to the constitution – to ensure effective and efficient administration of justice,’’ he further said.