By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, on Thursday, said there was need for the establishment of a constitutional court that will have the mandate of determining election related cases.
The legal body maintained that the move will help to decongest and reduce the workload of the regular courts which it said would focus on other civil and criminal matters.
It made the recommendation at a valedictory court session that was held in honour of the retired Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Abdu-Kafarati, in Abuja.
In a speech the body of SANs presented through its representative, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, it decried that a similar proposal it made earlier was turned down due to lack of foresight.
It argued that establishment of constitutional courts should be revisited and reintegrated into the constitution of the country in compliance with Section 250.
According to the body, all political matters, including pre and post election matters and election petitions will be effectively handled by the court, while all appeals from the court will terminate at the Court of Appeal.
The senior lawyer stressed that each state of the federation shall have its own Court of Appeal, with only constitutional matters proceeding to the Supreme Court.
Awomolo recalled that the Federal High Court had disclosed that it has over 16, 000 pending cases.
He said: “During the opening of the 2019/2020 legal year address on Monday the 16th day of September 2019, Your Lordship reeled out the statistics of cases filed, cases completed and cases carried forward to the new legal year. I recall you stated that 16000 cases were carried over. Many of the cases are well over 4 years and surely by the end of this year, several hundreds of cases will add to the accumulated carry over.
“My Lord, the congestions in all the courts have become a great burden, a source of concern and embarrassment.
In the Supreme, only political cases are being heard on daily basis. Indeed every day on the cause list of the court, there are about 12 or 15 cases for hearing.
“The Court of Appeal, in all the divisions are daily preoccupied with pre and post election cases. Most High Courts are occupied with political cases.
Indeed most Judicial Officers from the High Court to the Supreme Court have no vacation this year.
“Do politicians appreciate those sacrifices? Each amendment to the Constitution is skewed towards enhancing the fortune of political office holders, increase the pressure and burden on the court. Not the least attention is given to the welfare and health of the judges.
“The consequence of all these is that litigants in ordinary civil cases and matter are groaning.
“Justice have been, and its being denied them due to delays. Judges in States are currently deployed to be Chairmen and Members of election Tribunal all over Nigeria.
“The congestion In our courts and unwanted consequences include total demobilization of regular cases due to attention and urgency of political matters.
“Judiciary cannot continue like this. Political rights of few citizens cannot override legal rights of millions of citizens to live, do business and prosper.
“The truth is that congestion and delay of the administration of justice is destroying several businesses, discouraging Foreign Investors from coming to Nigeria.
This is the time when an urgent conference of stakeholders should hold to consider the structure of our judicial system, its structure and bring out solutions.
“In this regard, I suggest the constitutional courts thoughtfully considered and introduced by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigerial995 but was struck down for lack of foresight, must now be revisited and reintegrated into the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
“Section 250(1) 81 (2) of that Constitution take care of the disruption of our court system and unending delay of other cases in our courts.
“All political matters, including pre and post election matters including all election petitions will be handled by the court.
“All appeals from the decisions of the court will terminate in the Court of Appeal.
Each State of the Federation shall have her own Court of Appeal and only Constitutional matters will go to Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“The Code of Conduct Tribunal, which has been elevated to criminal court, must be seen as a Judicial body, having regards to the enormous powers vested in that Tribunal.
“It must be made a part of the Court under Section 6(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and any persons to be appointed as Judges must be certified fit and proper in every sense of it. The Bar and Bench must push for this Constitutional amendment as quickly as possible”.
The body further called on the judiciary to defend its integrity, saying: “While some people believed that Nigerian Bar and the Bench performed very well since the retum of democracy in 1999, may referred to great decisions of the Courts on interpretation of the Constitution.
“They believed, rightly so that but for Judiciary, the current constitutional democracy could have collapsed.
Some contributors believed great damages have been done to the image and public perception of the Bar and the Bench reflecting on the public low rating, particularly the Judiciary.
“Attention was called to the avoidable and unfortunate overzealous raids in the homes of the judicial officers like common criminals in the wee hours of the day, the arrest and arraignment of Judges including the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“These events were seen as having caused damages to the public perception of Justice and Judiciary. Our walls have been broken and vipers have entered”, it added.