Ex. Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed

Why only judges, not lawyers, should be appointed Chief Justice of Nigeria – CJN

Mahmud Mohammed, chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), on Monday said Nigeria’s supreme court is arguably the “most overworked” in the world.

Delivering a speech at a special session to commence the 2016/2017 legal year, Mohammed said the apex court entertained 1,489 matters in the year.

He explained that the figure consisted of 908 motions, 581 substantive appeals and 268 judgments.

“Indeed, during this period we received about 10 new appeals per week, most of which were interlocutory in nature,” he said.

“Consequently, we have taken the historic step towards the expansion of the single track of justice delivery in the court by allowing for appeals to be mediated where the parties and issues permit.

“With these statistics given above, I dare to say that in the 2015/2016 legal year, our court confirmed its status as arguably the most overworked Supreme Court anywhere in the World.”

Mohammed, who is due to retire this year, said he would be leaving the court better than he met it.

“I am proud to say that by the will of Almighty, I am leaving the Supreme Court in a better shape than I met it,” he said.

“Indeed, in the past year, this court has witnessed numerous improvements both in terms of physical infrastructure and statutory functioning that will no doubt put us on the cusp of greater accomplishments.

“This legal year has certainly been an eventful one. We have rowed against the proverbial tides and withstood the blistering winds and gale forces.

“Indeed, we must appreciate and commend the efforts made by our justices, and all judicial officers and staff of the various strata of our judiciary towards enhancing the administration of justice.’’

He said the landmark achievements were recorded despite the various attacks and challenges to the independence of the judiciary.

Mohammed said the last legal year witnessed transition in the ranks of the justices of the court with the appointment of Amiru Sanusi, a justice, to join the ranks of the court.

“While we are waiting for the confirmation of the appointment of two justices of the court by the Senate, the NJC is expected to consider and recommend the appointment of two additional justices at its meeting on September 28,” he said.

“We also held valedictory sittings on the retirement of two of our brothers, in the persons of Justices Afolabi Fabiyi and Sailfullahi Muntaka-Coomasie into well deserved life of leisure and rest.

“I thank these tow distinguished jurists and gentlemen for their invaluable contributions to the jurisprudence of the court and rest assured, they are sorely missed by us all.”

On administration of justice, the CJN said the judiciary needs to address the perennial issue of delays.

“While we all rush to rehash the age-old rhetoric that justice delayed is justice denied, the actions of our key stakeholders, particularly members of the bar have often proven to be far from the words,” he said.

“Although new laws and practice directions have been enacted with the aim of speeding up the administration of justice, incessant delays remain.

“Sadly, certain members of the bar are conspicuous in utilising unethical, frivolous applications and appeals, multiplicity of actions in courts of coordinate jurisdiction and other acts of calumny to frustrate the speedy dispensation of justice.”

According to him, these abuses of court process not only occasion delays, but also diminish the standing of the justice system and the legal profession in the eyes of the public.

“My Lords, distinguished guests and gentlemen of the bar, as I wind down this legal year speech, I must confess that I do so with a certain sense of nostalgia,” he said.

“I also do so in the firm knowledge that since my elevation to this noble court, I have put my hands to the proverbial plough in contributing my quota to the decisions of the court.

“I am satisfied that the initiatives introduced by my predecessors and I have steadily led to an improvement in the procedures and business of the court.

“I am similarly confident that this will continue to be improved upon when the baton is transferred to my successor-in-office.

“On a particularly encouraging note, I am glad to have also walked the talk in the establishing the first court-connected ADR facility in the Supreme Court.

“I feel rewarded to be departing the court, safe in the knowledge that our court is now a beacon to other jurisdictions in the use of a multi-modal justice delivery system

“I therefore urge you to be part of the success of the Supreme Court mediation centre.”

The outgoing CJN used the occasion to swear-in 22 senior lawyers promoted to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

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