Legal Nigeria

'17 Justices Okay For Supreme Court'

•‘More courts, more congestion’
The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria Walter Samuel Onnoghen said yesterday the 17 justices of the Supreme Court were adequate for the country.
Onnoghen said the appointment of more judges and justices as well as creation of more judicial divisions were not solutions to judicial delay and congestion of cases.
He spoke yesterday at the inauguration of the re-modelled and upgraded Court of Appeal, Lagos Complex, in company of Lagos State Deputy Governor Dr. Idiat Oluranti-Adebule, who represented Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
Onnoghen, responding to a call by Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Vice President Monday Ubani for three more divisions of the Appeal Court for speedy justice delivery, noted that it will create more problems.
He said: “We always think we can solve congestion in our courts by appointing more judges and justices and creating more divisions, because the idea is that the more they are, the lesser the job or workload.
“But this has not been proved right. It has rather been proved wrong, because the more divisions you create, the more cases get filed. The solution doesn’t lie in multiplying number of divisions and judges. The more judges and justices you appoint, the more cases that get filed, which points to the fact that we have really not hit the nail on the head.
“The solution lies in making every appeal to the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court by leave. It lies in controlling the jurisdiction of the court in the quantity, number of cases that get to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
“If we have 21 or so provisions for vacancies to the Supreme Court, we believe if we appoint that number, it will be the solution? No.”
Onnoghen observed that the United States and India with far more people than Nigeria had fewer Supreme Court justices.
“Apart from the physical constraints the Supreme Court has in terms of space, there is another idea we should look at. Which of the countries in the world can you point to with that kind of number of justices on its Supreme Court bench? There is none. Even in America as large as it is, it has nine. Go to India, none.
“So, the number 17 is adequate for our size, if we can only solve the problem of congestion by controlling volume of traffic that gets to the Supreme Court.
“We say appeals should get to the Supreme Court as of right. Good. On matters of questions of law; yes. If it is on point of law, the point of law must be novel enough to attract attention of the Supreme Court. Otherwise, we are just playing about.”
Ambode, who hailed the upgrade, pledged the state’s support for the judiciary.
Appeal Court President Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa led a host of dignitaries, including Supreme Court Justices Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Sidi Bage, justices of the Sokoto, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Makurdi, Abuja, Jos and Yola Divisions of the Appeal Court.Source : The Nation