A Supreme Court Judge, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, has called for an amendment of the Constitution so that some cases can terminate at the Court of Appeal.
This, in addition to more deployment of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), she said, will reduce the Supreme Court’s workload.
She spoke in a paper she delivered at the fifth annual lecture in honour of Prof Alfred Kasumu, which held at the University of Lagos.
Justice Kekere-Ekun backed suggestions that some cases terminate at the Court of Appeal, adding that a review of the constitutional provisions governing the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is necessary.
“I am in full support of certain classes of cases terminating at the Court of Appeal. In my humble view, the amendment of the 1999 Constitution has added to the burden of the Supreme Court.
“It made the Supreme Court the final court of appeal in respect of decisions arising from Governorship election tribunals.
“Such appeals, by virtue of Section 285 (7) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) must be concluded within 60 days from the date of the delivery of the judgment of the Court of Appeal,” she said.
She said the provision has led to an influx of appeals and has also affected other cases pending before the court, which are already overdue for hearing, but which had to be set aside while election related appeals are heard and determined expediently.
She also called for the use of more technology in court processes.
“The global village is moving at a faster pace, the apex court of the most populous nation in Africa cannot be left behind. We must embrace information technology and take advantage of all that it offers along with alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, where possible.
“A reduction of the inflow of cases and more efficient management of the court’s docket will allow the justices to devote more of their time and resources to research, study, reading, consultations among themselves for the advancement and administration of justice.”
In her paper entitled: the Nigerian Supreme Court: structural reforms for today’s dispensation of justice, Justice Kekere-Ekun said for the Supreme Court to discharge its role effectively, the adoption of Information technology will allow for easy sharing of information.
She said it will also help to create a database for decided cases by all the courts and which will also be accessible by judicial officers anywhere.
In addition, she said ICT will facilitate communication between the justices, the registry and other administrative staff. According to her, the project is capital intensive and requires political will, purposeful leadership, and the commitment of substantial resources.
“It also requires training for the justices and upgrading the knowledge and skills of courts staff to enable them effectively manage the facilities. The present leadership of the court is fully committed to this transformation.
“The role of the Supreme Court today should primarily be that of development of legal policy and to discharge the role effectively, its current docket has to be greatly reduced,” she said.
A life bencher, Mrs Hairat Balogun, who chaired the event, said hiring more research assistants will help to reduce unemployment and ease the justices’ workload.