The current composition of the Supreme Court of Nigeria is a matter of concern, as highlighted by Mazi Afam Osigwe, SAN, the chairman of the recently concluded Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) 2023 annual general conference.
Osigwe emphasized that the number of justices at the Supreme Court has been reduced to 10 following the retirement of Justice Muhammad Dattijo, which is below the constitutional requirement. He raised several important points regarding the challenges and suggested reforms in the Nigerian judiciary system.
RELATED ARTICLE BY MAZI AFAM OSIGWE:
One significant issue Osigwe addressed is the need for a broader scope in the appointment process of Supreme Court justices. He argued against the current practice of exclusively appointing justices from the Court of Appeal, stating that this approach leads to a situation where judges retire simultaneously, causing a rapid reduction in the number of Supreme Court justices.
Supreme Court Composition: Age, Appointment Process, and Diversity
He advocated for a more diverse pool of candidates, including those from academic and private practice and High Court judges, to ensure a balance and avoid a concentration of retirements within a short timeframe.
Osigwe also discussed the importance of considering the age of appointees to the Supreme Court, suggesting a minimum tenure of five years to mitigate the issue of justices retiring simultaneously. He emphasized the need to appoint individuals based on merit, regardless of their background. He highlighted the positive examples of individuals like Taslim Elias and Anthony Aniagolu, who were appointed from the private bar and as Chief Judge of a state, respectively.
Decentralizing Power: CJN’s Roles and Proposed Amendments
Furthermore, Osigwe addressed concerns about the concentration of power in the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) by holding multiple positions, such as the Federal Judicial Service Commission Chairman, the National Judicial Institute, and the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee. He recommended amendments to the constitution to ensure the independence of these bodies and a more transparent appointment process.
Regarding the challenges in appointing new justices to the Supreme Court, Osigwe expressed concern over the prolonged vacancies and urged proactive measures from the relevant bodies. He called for a reevaluation of the current system, emphasizing the importance of reviewing the age and tenure of appointees to avoid rapid depletions in the number of Supreme Court justices.
Lawyers’ Role in Case Delays: Frivolous Applications and Proposed Solutions
In response to the issue of political cases overwhelming the judiciary after elections, Osigwe suggested addressing the internal democracy of political parties, reconsidering the criteria for legal practitioners to apply for the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) title, and imposing consequences for frivolous litigation.
Concerning the welfare of judges, Osigwe agreed with the public outcry about the inadequate salaries of judges in Nigeria. He recommended periodic reviews of judges’ salaries and benefits to align with the economic reality, stating that this would enhance their commitment to their responsibilities and discourage corruption.
In conclusion, Osigwe’s insights provide a comprehensive overview of the Nigerian judiciary’s challenges and constructive recommendations for reforms to ensure a more efficient, diverse, and independent Supreme Court.
For Advert Inquiries & News/Article Publishing