Thursday, 18 April, 2024


Dattijo’s speech sparks calls for Supreme Court reforms

Against the backdrop of claims by former Justice of the Supreme Court,  Justice Musa Datijo, that the Chief Justice of Nigeria wields enormous powers capable of derailing the course of justice, the House of Representatives has reiterated its readiness to look at the allegations and come up with what is best for the nation’s judiciary.

Justice Datijo, until recently a member of the bench at the apex court, bared his mind last week on the need to prune the powers of the CJN given the oversight functions he exercises on a number of legal institutions across the country.

Speaking at a valedictory session organised in his honour on Friday, Justice Dattijo said, “As presently structured, the CJN is the Chairman of the National Judicial Commission, which oversees both the appointment and discipline of judges. He is equally the chair of the Federal Judicial Service Commission, the National Judicial Institute, and the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee t

hat appoints Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

“My considered opinion is that the oversight functions of these bodies should not rest on an individual alone. A person with absolute powers, it is said, corrupts easily and absolutely.

Meanwhile, some senior lawyers have called for a constitutional amendment and judicial reform that would strip the CJN of some powers.

Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome, agreed with Justice Dattijo, saying, “We know that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, no matter how humble such a person will be. I will, therefore, urge that the constitutional amendment take these things into consideration.”

Ozekhome also called for the immediate appointment of more Supreme Court justices.

Similarly, a former Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Afam Osigwe (SAN), said there was a need to review some of the bodies headed by the CJN.

He said, “I am not particularly commenting on what Justice Dattijo said but I would like to put on record that I have mentioned severally in the media that there is everything wrong with the CJN being the Chairman of FJSC, which makes recommendations to the NJC and also chairing the same council that considers the recommendation.

“I also think the law should be amended to only make the CJN the chairman of the NJC while the FJSC should be reconstituted. I also believe in reconstituting other bodies while persons outside the judiciary or retired judicial officers should head them. I am not saying this with a particular reference to this particular Chief Justice of Nigeria, it has always been so.”

Another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, noted that the current arrangement dates back to the immediate-post independence period, saying like the CJN, the President and the Senate President also enjoy enormous powers.

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Adegboruwa said, “This has been the position since independence. It is expected that the person who occupies that office will continually use his discretion for effective management. It would be difficult to share those powers with any other agency given the nature of the office of the CJN.

“It is the same thing with the Office of the President. The powers given to the President are enormous; the same as the Senate President. The Senate President presides over the National Assembly; he is the chairman of the National Assembly Commission; and also the Chairman of the National Assembly Legislative Institute.

“It is not proper to just isolate the CJN for the purpose of stripping these powers.”

He, however, urged the CJN to learn to consult his vice before reaching some decisions.

On the low number of Supreme Court justices, Adegboruwa, said, “It is quite a sad tale on our judicial system to have just 10 justices in the Supreme Court.

“Generally, the judiciary in Nigeria deserves a state of emergency as the appellate courts have become more of a burial ground for the administration of justice in Nigeria.”

Credit: Punch


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