The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, has asked the Senate to amend the relevant sections of the constitution to reduce the workload of the apex court justices.
He said an urgent review and amendment of the 1999 constitution in the area of the Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction, would ensure among others, that all manners of cases do not have to terminate there.
The CJN stated this on Thursday evening when the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters paid an oversight visit to his office.
He said the number of appeals pending and those received so far this year were “mind-blowing.”
Justice Muhammad said the Supreme Court of Nigeria remained the busiest apex court in the world.
Despite the challenges, he said the nation’s judiciary remained the best.
He told the Senate panel led by its Chairman, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, that the National Assembly should amend the constitution as of necessity.
He said the amendment would enhance timely dispensation of justice and reduce the stress. Tanko added that the burden of appeals was already affecting the justices of the apex court.
He said, “Many of us don’t sleep for 12 hours as recommended by stress managers.
“We don’t write judgement merely by stating that so, so and so cases were filed by this and that, and end it up by saying the appeal is hereby dismissed or upheld.
“We have to give reasons which are the bedrock of judgement writing.
“Nigerian Judiciary is one of the best in the world; and if nobody tells you, I am telling you today.
“The constitution enjoins the Supreme Court to have 21 justices, yet we are having less than that number. We will have to appoint more justices to fill the gap soon.
The CJN also complained of the fund yearly allocated to the judiciary, saying the judiciary is highly underfunded.
He said, “If you see the amount allocated to the judiciary, it is far less than what is given to some ministries.
“Salaries of the judicial officers are also stale (sic) for over 12 years running, and I hope you would look at all that, ” the CJN added.
The Chairman of the Senate panel said the Senate Standing Orders 2015 and the 1999 Constitution empower the committee to oversee the Federal Judiciary.
He said as a matter of tradition, the committee usually pays the CJN, as the Head of the Judicial Arm of Government, a courtesy call.
Bamidele said, “We are here today to keep faith with the time-honoured tradition of the committee.”
He added that all the 14 members of the committee are lawyers and that their names are contained in the Legal Practitioners’ Roll of the Supreme Court.
He said it is a homecoming, to interact and familiarise themselves with the CJN in order to find out the progress made by the judiciary so far as well as the challenges facing the judiciary.
He said, ‘’This, no doubt, would enable us to make appropriate legislative interventions in times ahead, for the betterment of the judiciary.
Bamidele noted that the judiciary plays a very crucial role in the sustenance and deepening of democratic core values.
He pledged that the federal parliament would make necessary interventions to strengthen and guarantee the independence of the judiciary.
He said the committee would make appropriate legislative interventions to ensure proper funding for the judiciary.
“The Committee would work in collaboration with the judiciary to review laws and embark on reforms – including the amendment to the constitution – to ensure effective and efficient administration of justice.”
The committee also visited the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa who also asked the senators to intervene in the area of poor funding of the judiciary.