Lawyers may meet CJN on appointment of Supreme Court justices

• As CJN decries depleting number Justices

Worried by the non-inclusion of Senior Lawyers in the appointment of Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BoSAN), on Monday, called for a meeting with the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, to discuss the issue.

The meeting, BoSAN said, would help in addressing the issue of alleged exclusion of senior lawyers from being appointed directly to the benches of both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.

The body made the appeal at the special valedictory session of the Supreme Court in honour of Justice Amiru Sanusi, who retired from the bench of the apex court, having attained the mandatory retirement age of 70 years on Sunday.

Chief Onomigbo Okpoko (SAN), who delivered the speech of the Chairman, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN), said the issue of exclusion of senior lawyers from appointment into the bench of the apex court has become a national concern because it robs the bench and the nation of the very best in the judiciary.

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According to him: “This is a serious issue which deserves serious consideration. It is not a matter as to whether the Bar agrees or disagrees with the stand of the CJN. The way forward is to have a round table talk and in-house debate.

“I plead with the honourable CJN to arrange for this in-house discussion, as it is in the interest of all stakeholders. Unity and oneness of the Bar and Bench is of fundamental importance in policies concerning the operations of Courts and the administration of justice,” he said.

The senior lawyer, who noted that in time past, SANs have been appointed directly into the bench of the apex court, wondered why they are been excluded today, just as he expressed confidence that the presence of a senior lawyer in the bench of the two higher courts in the land would enhance the intellectual content of judgments delivered by the courts.

“Let the door be open to every legible Lawyer as enshrined in Section 231(3) and Section 238(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. What the Appellate Court needs are more intellectually sound, efficient and hardworking Justices. Only the best Lawyers from the Bar and the Bench should man the Apex Court. It is the final court. It is not a Court for carrying out Legal experiment or training,” the body maintained.

BoSAN, however, called on the political class to desist from blackmailing and intimidating judges when decisions do not go in their favour.

The body said it was high time the political class begin to appreciate the difficult task of judging and determining issues of fact and Law applicable to any case.

“In recent times, the unfounded accusation against some Judicial Officers has moved to a call for resignation of a particular Judicial Officer because the judgment delivered in his Court went against their expectation. The call for resignation of a Judge because of his judgment is a dangerous excursion into the territory of Judicial independence.

“Blackmail and intimidation are not compatible bedmates for the effective dispensation of Justice.”

The body, in addition, advised lawyers to stand up and fight for the Judiciary as an institution, warning that they and their clients would henceforth be held accountable for unwanted attacks on the judiciary.

Meanwhile, the CJN, Justice Muhammad, said the apex court would further come under more excruciating pain following the exit of Justice Sanusi.

“You will recall that barely seven weeks ago, being Thursday, December 12, 2019, we assembled here to honour our brother, Justice Kumai Bayang Aka’ahs in a similar valedictory session. That ceremony, painfully, occasioned the depleting of our ranks at the Supreme Court. In a similar fashion, this session, too, is billed to further drastically reduce the number of Supreme Court justices as low as 13.

“This is not cheering news in view of the ever-increasing number of appeals that flood the Court on daily basis,” he said.

According to the CJN, the highly embarrassing litigious nature of Nigerians gives no space for the Justices of the Court to rest their nerves, adding that they are daily inundated and suffocated with cases of different types that they can hardly have time for themselves and families.

Justice Muhammad noted that though, the retirement of Justice Sanusi came at a time the court and nation need his exceptional services dearly, he, however, released him to his family and wish him well in his future endeavours.

By provisions of the Constitution, the apex bench is made up of 21 Justices, however, the number has continued to reduce following the attainment of retirement age by some of the Justices.

It would be recalled that the National Judicial Council (NJC) had, in October 2019 recommended to President Muhammadu Buhari, the elevation of four Justices of the Court of Appeal to the bench of the Supreme Court.

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