September 23, 2014

2015: CJN calls for appointment of more judges

2015: CJN calls for appointment of more judges

Akpokona Omafuaire.

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA—Ahead of the 2015 general elections, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, yesterday, called for the appointment of more Judges, saying it would help towards expediting the dispensation of justice in the country.

The CJN who made the request while flagging-off the 2014/2015 legal year of the Supreme Court, equally decried the high ratio of remand prisoners or awaiting trial inmates in Nigeria as alarming, a situation she said could be linked to an “inefficient judiciary”.

According to the CJN, “As we inch closer to the completion of the 2nd decade of our nascent democracy, we cannot afford the degeneration of the Nigerian Judiciary. Therefore attention, in the form of an institutionalized pragmatic response must be carried out in several key sectors of the judiciary.

“Despite the existence of a dual principal enactment that governs the trial procedure in criminal cases in Nigeria, there are challenges in the administration of Criminal Justice System in the country. The level of delay in the dispensation of justice in Nigeria is disturbing and has over the years yearned for attention”.

The CJN noted that though the new practice directions that were recently introduced by the various courts in the country helped to boost the speedy delivery of Justice, she said there was need to ensure a Civil Justice System that is effective and responsive to the aspirations of the general public.

“May I also suggest the appointment of more judges and Magistrates on merit, improved legal criteria and practice, alternative to pre-trial detention as well as introduction of pre-trial victim offender mediation and most importantly ensure a speedy dispensation of criminal matters.

“As it is with our Criminal Justice System, so also is our civil justice. As the back bone of our legal system, the common man in Nigeria should be able to resolve their grievances and obtain remedy in conformity with fundamental rights through institutions of justice. In an effective manner, civil justice requires that the system be accessible, affordable, effective, impartial and culturally competent. Effective civil justice also implies that court proceedings and judgments are delivered and enforced without unreasonable delays.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, as we approach election year, let me reinstate the resolve of the judicial officers appointed to pilot the Nigerian Justice system and assure you of our commitment to give our best in the new legal year”, she added.

The CJN who also used the occasion to swear in 17 new Senior Advocates of Nigeria, disclosed that in the course of the 2013/2014 legal year, the apex court had 1288 cases, made up of 180 civil appeals and 86 criminal appeals. She added that the court entertained 44 political appeals.

The CJN stated while 83 Civil Judgments and 42 Criminal Judgments along with 21 Political Judgments were delivered by the court. In total, she said that 146 judgments were disposed off by the court in the last legal year.

Meanwhile, in his own speech, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, stressed that though there was a remarkable improvement in the output of the court, he urged the apex court justices to reflect on the performances of the court with a view to improving on the present indicators.

Likewise, Adoke, called for the reappraisal of the current performance evaluation mechanism in the judiciary which he said tends to emphasize quantity at the detriment of quality.

“My Lords, a Judge’s performance should be measured by a cock-tail of performance indicators including but not limited to: the quality of rulings/judgments delivered over a period of time relative to the court’s cause list; the quality of such judgments; the number of decisions upheld or overturned on appeal; the degree to which judges take effective control of their courts; case management skills and sitting at when due”, he added.