Body of SAN makes case for specialised courts

Worried by the eroding public confidence in the judiciary, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) on Monday, called for the creation of specialized divisions in the Federal High Court.

Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), who spoke at the commencement of Federal High Court 2019/2020 new legal year on behalf of the Body of SAN, said the era of general jurisdiction where a judge deal with at least 25 cases of all kind of matters in day has not helped in the dispensation of justice.

Awomolo said that present situation where cause lists include political matters under the Electoral Act, criminal matters under National Drugs Enforcement Agency, National Agency for Protection Trafficking in Person, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Relates Offences Commission and other sundry crimes make the work of judges cumbersome.

He said special divisions of the Federal High Court, will lead to specialization, increased productivity and reduce the delay in the administration of justice. It will also weaken the argument for the call for the establishment of “Special Corruption Court.

Reflecting on public opinions on the Judiciary, the body of SAN noted that it is not inspiring or favourable, saying that, “Justices, as we know, is rooted in confidence and there is urgent need to build confidence in the Judiciary as the last hope of common man.”

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), in his speech, charged the acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho to put in motion, proactive measures and programmes that would enable the Court meet all its challenges and proficiently promote administration of justice in the country.

The minister said the acting CJ can achieve the goal through handwork and determination, adding that, “in view of the constitutional mandate bestowed on this Court and the nature of cases being adjudicated upon by this Court, I urge My Noble Lords to maintain sanctity and credibility and to ensure that the sacred integrity reposed on your Lordships remain unshaken at all times in order to foster and promote public confidence in all judgments and rulings that emanates from this Court.”

He further stated that the speed at which the Federal High Court handled pre-election matters at the wake of the election; during and after the general elections, has helped the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to effectively field right candidates for the election and the efficient conduct of election processes.

The AGF said, “the pivotal role played by the Federal High Court by virtue of section 251 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) makes the Court unique and distinct from other Courts of coordinate jurisdiction.”

According to the AGF, the Federal High Court, as part of the judicial arm of government, is the anchor upon which the legitimate claim to a civilised society rests and revolves.

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He charged stakeholders in the nation’s judiciary to cooperate with the Federal High Court in ensuring that the dignity, integrity and credibility of the Court is not put to ridicule.

“We must collectively shun fraudulent practices and to render sound and unbiased advice to our clients based on laid down laws and not on sentiment. We should also not be seen encouraging our clients in a bit to ridicule this Court into doing the impossible,” he said.

In his remarks, the Ag. Chief Judge stressed the need for the engagement of more judges in order to enhance justice delivery in the division of the court and by extension, the nation’s judiciary.

Justice Tsoho said with the engagement of more judges, the heavy workload of litigation faced by judges of the Court in the discharge of their official duties will reduce.

Declaring the legal year opened, Justice Tsoho disclosed that the judges worked tirelessly to dispense 12, 694 out of the 16, 144 cases brought before them in the previous legal year, while noting that there are still 116, 623 cases pending at the court.

“It is pertinent at this juncture to highlight the status of litigation before this court in the last legal year. From reports received, about 116,623 cases are pending in the federal high court. 16,144 cases were filed in this quarter alone in which 12,694 have been disposed off. It is obvious that judges were overburdened with work in the last legal year. We, therefore, need to engage more judicial officers to help out,” he said.

The acting CJ while noting that there was no provision for appointment of judges in the current budget, assured that efforts would be made to engage relevant stakeholders, “to see to the possibility of facilitating the recruitment of more judicial officers in the course of the year.”

He also assured that he will continue in the footsteps of his predecessor in improving both human resources and infrastructural development in the court.

“More importantly, attention would be paid to the efficient and effective administration of justice and the welfare of Judicial Officers, as well as the support staff of this court.”

In addition, he said he would make the training of judges and staff of the judiciary his priority in order to enhance their professionalism.

He also promised to work with the legislature and the executive to entrench constitutionalism in the federal judiciary, adding a that the Federal High Court has amended its civil procedure rules to enhance speedy dispensation of justice.

“The new rules contain certain innovations to meet with the dynamism in law and to bring the court at par with other courts in the developed world. Some of these include an affidavit of non-multiplicity of actions (Order 3 Rule 9(2)(d); a reinforced interpretation of the Territorial Jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, such that no leave is required for service of process anywhere within the federation (Order 5 Rule 31),” he said.

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