By Clifford Ndujihe
A socio-political organisation, Enugu Rebirth, has called for the amendment of the law establishing the Court of Appeal to ensure equal representations of both states and the six geopolitical zones in the appellate court.
Making the call, Coordinator of Enugu Rebirth, Chief Chuka Eze, said increasing the number of justices of the appellate court from 90 to 108 will enable each of the 109 senatorial districts in the country to have one representative with Abuja, having two, bringing the total to 110.
Section one of the law establishing the Court of Appeal which was amended in 2013, increased the number of judges of the appellate court from 70 to 90 and the figure has not been increased despite the increase in the number of the court’s divisions.
He spoke against the backdrop of criticisms trailing the appointments of 40 new justices of the Court of Appeal.
In 2017, the President of the Court of Appeal elevated 12 judges from the state and federal high courts to the court of appeal. The new judges were sworn- in in 2018. Out of this number, none came from the South-East.
In 2021, the new President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Dogban – Mensem, appointed 20 new judges to the appellate court, with 13 who are all Muslims coming from the North, four from the South-West, two from the South- South, while one came from Imo in the South-East.
Eze further urged the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Dogban- Mensem, to create divisions of the court of appeal in every state of the federation to ensure speedy dispensation of justice in the appellate court.
However, following the criticisms trailing the appointments, Justice Mensem defended the short-listing of the 40 new judges out of the 80 that were qualified.
The 40 new names include 20 from the priority list (names from the Executive and other well placed Nigerians) and 20 non- priority names.
Mensem said their recommendations followed due process without clarifying how some states have more than their quotas where others were not favoured.
However, reacting to the development, Enugu Rebirth stated that the only way out of the logjam was for the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to initiate an Executive Bill for the amendment of the Court of Appeal law to allow more judges following the under-staffing of the appellate court.
His words: “The law establishing the Court of Appeal should be amended to comprise 110 judges. Elevation of more judges to the Appeal Court will enhance justice delivery and increase productivity. The President of the Court of Appeal, PCA, should initiate moves to establish divisions of the court in all the 36 states of the federation, and Abuja instead of the present situation whereby such divisions are allocated to cluster of states.”