By IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA — As part of her in-put into the ongoing National Conference, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar, yesterday, called for an amendment of the 1999 Constitution to make it possible for governorship election petitions to terminate at the Court of Appeal.
The CJN, who canvassed the position when the National Conference Committee on Judiciary paid her a courtesy visit, stressed that the situation where all kinds of governorship election disputes find their way to the apex court, caused unnecessary distractions.
The 25-member committee, which was led by Professor Awwalu Yadudu as its Chairman, said the purpose of their visit was to seek the views of the CJN on grey areas of the constitutions that should be amended, with a view to enhancing speedy dispensation of justice in the country.
Professor Yadudu, who spoke on behalf of the committee, told the CJN that they resolved last week to seek her views on some provisions they felt ought to be amended in the 1999 Constitution.
In her response, Justice Mukhtar noted that the immediate past CJN, Justice Musdapher, earlier constituted a stakeholders’ committee, following a similar memorandum sent to him by the National Assembly.
He said: “Let me seize this opportunity to present to you a copy of that Stakeholders Committee Report which is already before the National Assembly as our own input to the constitutional debate.
“That committee brainstormed on some constitutional provisions and came up with some sections we proposed before the National Assembly for amendment.
“Personally, I am particular about Section 233 of the 1999 Constitution that deals with appellate jurisdictions of cases before the courts for adjudication.” There are several cases that ought not to
come to the Supreme Court and should have terminated at the Court of Appeal.
“I feel all gubernatorial election petitions tribunals matters should terminate at the Court of Appeal because as a result of those political appeals other regular ordinary cases suffer at the Supreme Court. Issues of chieftancy and interlocutory appeals ought to terminate at the Appeal Court because they constitute distraction here in the Supreme Court.
“An ordinary farmer who sues over his farmland valued at N50, 000 deserve to be heard on time”.
Meantime, a member of the Committee, Mr. Mike Ozokhome, SAN, urged the CJN to comment on voluntary and compulsory retirement ages of 65 and 70 years respectively for judicial officers in the constitution, to which she said were in order in view of the peculiar characteristics of Nigerians.
“If you shift the voluntary retirement age to 70 years and put compulsory retirement age at 75 years, so many Nigerians will prefer to sit tight, saying they can manage even if their health begin to fail them at the age of 70 years. Many of us are highly dishonest and can never admit the fact that they are no longer capable, otherwise there are many judges that are still vibrant at the age of 70 years”.
Professor Yadudu thanked the CJN for her suggestions, saying they were already thinking in the same direction.