The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar, yesterday lamented that the remittance of governorship election petitions up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, which should ordinarily have ended at the Court of Appeal, is a source of distraction to the apex court.
Justice Mukhtar made this known when the Committee on Judiciary of the National Conference paid her a courtesy and also to seek her input on some areas that need to be amended in the constitution for speedy adjudication of court cases.
Nigeria is noted for having one of the slowest court processes in the world with cases dragging on for many years without an end in sight.
According to a statement by the media aide to the CJN, Mr. Ahuraka Isah, the 25-member confab committee was led by a Professor of law, Awwalu Yadudu.
Professor Yadudu, who spoke on behalf of the committee, told the CJN that they resolved last week to seek her views on some provisions they felt ought to be amended in the 1999 Constitution.
But Justice Mukhtar recalled that the immediate past CJN, Justice Musdapher Aliyu, had inaugurated a stakeholders’ committee when the National Assembly called for submission of memorandum during the amendment of the 1999 Constitution.
“Let me seize this opportunity to present to you a copy of that Stakeholders’ Committee Report which is already before the National Assembly as our own input to the present constitutional debate. That committee brainstormed on some constitutional provisions and came up with some sections we proposed before the National Assembly for amendment.
“Personally, I am particular about Section 233 of the 1999 Constitution that deals with appellate jurisdictions of cases before the courts for adjudication. There are several cases that ought not to come to the Supreme Court and should have terminated at the Court of Appeal.
“I feel all gubernatorial election petitions tribunal matters should terminate at the Court of Appeal because as a result of those political appeals other regular ordinary cases suffer at the Supreme Court.
“Issues of chieftaincy and interlocutory appeals ought to terminate at the Appeal Court because they constitute distraction here in the Supreme Court”, she said.
A member of the Committee, Mr Mike Ozokhome (SAN) asked the CJN to share her views on voluntary and compulsory retirement ages of 65 and 70 years respectively for judicial officers in the constitution, to which Justice Mukhtar said were in order in view of the peculiar characteristics of Nigerians.
“If you shift the voluntary retirement age to 70 years and put compulsory retirement age at 75 years, so many Nigerians will prefer to sit tight, saying they can manage even if their health begin to fail them at the age of 70 years. Many of us are highly dishonest and can never admit the fact that they are no longer capable, otherwise there are many judges that are still vibrant at the age of 70 years”, she asserted.