As Bulkachuwa bows out at 70
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, on Thursday, called for the immediate appointment of more Justices for the Court of Appeal, noting that some Divisions of the Court do not have the quorum of five Justices for the constitution of a full panel.
The NBA, in an address its National President, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN, presented at a special valedictory court session that was held in honour of the President of the Court of Appeal, PCA, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, who bowed out of the judiciary upon clocking the 70 years mandatory retirement age on Thursday, also advocated for the elevation of more female Judges to the appellate court.
It noted that out of 86 Justices that are currently on the bench of the Court of Appeal, only 23 of them which it said was barely 30 % are female.
”Indeed, the number of female justices of the Court of Appeal reached 10 only in 2005 with the elevation of Denton-West, JCA- 18 years after the elevation of Mukhtar JCA (as she then was) and 12 years after the elevation of Ige JCA.
“As at date, out of 86 Justices of the Court of Appeal, only 23- barely 30%- are female. With such a poor record in gender diversity, the epoch-making achievement of Bulkachuwa PCA, truly calls for celebration and corrective steps in enlarging the coast of our diversity and gender inclusion”.
On the need for the appointment of more Justices, the legal body said it was perturbed that some Justices of the Court of Appeal have been greatly overworked due to the paucity in the aggregate number of Justices of the Court.
It said: “Ideally, some Divisions, like the Lagos Division of this Honourable Court should have not less than 3 panels that sit regularly and consistently to reduce and spread the workload and that means, having more JJCA that are posted to these Divisions.
“Not to be forgotten is that we have in the recent months been blessed with additional and newly-created Divisions of this Court which, by itself, enhances access to justice but also compounds and stretches beyond the limits the work schedules of the limited JJCA that we currently have.
“The NBA, therefore, calls for the immediate appointment of additional Justices of the Court of Appeal not just for the extremely busy Divisions of the Honourable Court but for literally all the Divisions, the need for which we would illustratively show presently.
“To pave way for those appointments, we call for a concomitant amendment of the provisions of the Court of Appeal Act to allow for the appointment of sufficient number of JJCA that would ensure that no Division of the Court of Appeal would have less than 6 JJCA posted thereto and the particularly overworked and overloaded Divisions like Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt would have no less than 10 to 15 JJCA posted thereto.
“In the recent postings of the JCA’s that we have been privileged to see, a number of the Divisions have only 3 JJCA posted thereto which means, amongst others, that (a) such Divisions do not even have the quorum of 5 JJCA for the constitution of a full-court, in the terms of relevant constitutional provisions.
(b) Such Division will not form the 3- JJCA quorum for the hearing of ordinary matters if one or two JJCA is indisposed or unavailable for whatever reason on any day for the court’s sitting: and (c ) The JJCA in those Divisions would be overworked and prone to work stress and fatigue with the resultant health challenges.
“Very urgent attention, therefore, needs to be paid to this lacuna, for, access to justice becomes meaningless and unattainable when and if the courts are incapable of sitting due to lack of quorum and/or when the hearing of appeals is delayed due to paucity in the number of JJCA”, the NBA added.
In her valedictory speech, the retired PCA, Justice Bulkachuwa, said there was a need for more attention to be paid to the educational development of the girl child in Nigeria.
She said: “My life has been awesomely phenomenal. I was born at a time when girls hardly went to school and even when they did, they were not allowed to go beyond elementary level before being married off. I was lucky I had a father who encouraged me and taught me to reach for the sky.
“There are profound meanings and lessons in life and my life continues to bring them to the fore. If I could achieve all these in spite of the adversaries I faced, every girl child in Nigeria and indeed the world can also aspire for the great strides towards it and achieve it.
”More than academic success and career elevation, every girl has the potentials to live in and make her world a beautiful one. There is so much love to spread to those whose language you speak and those you don’t even understand”, Justice added.