Legal Nigeria

Poor funding: S-Court may soon turn to glorified high court,
ex-CJN laments

ABUJA—The immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, yesterday bemoaned that some justices of the apex court still live in rented apartments in parts of the Federal Capital Territory he described as “unsuitable areas”.

Onnoghen, who spoke in Abuja, at the public presentation of Nigeria’s first law book on Construction Law, warned that unless the Supreme Court of Nigeria is adequately funded, it may soon become a glorified High Court.

He noted that since 2008, no effort was made by the Federal Government to review salaries of justices of the apex court who he said had been suffering in silence.

Aside from the issue of accommodation, the erstwhile CJN, who was unceremoniously removed from office in 2019 by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, said there was need for the government to urgently look into the issue of welfare of judicial officers in the country to enable them to perform optimally.

Justice Onnoghen recalled that while he was in office as the CJN, he headed a team that prepared a new welfare scheme on the order of the federal government.

He lamented that since his exit, the Welfare Scheme Report, which his team that had the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, as well as the Solicitor General of the Federation, as its members, were jettisoned.

He said the report would have enhanced the condition of service of judicial officers in the country.

The ex-CJN, therefore, pleaded that funding of Judiciary should be immediately looked into with a view to improving on it in view of the critical role the Judiciary is playing in nation building.

While insisting that the Supreme Court is being overworked, Justice Onnoghen, recommended that appeal cases should not get to the apex court as of right, but by leave of the court, saying it would help to reduce the workload of the court.

“The Judiciary is not Nigeria’s problem but bad leadership. There must be a rethink on issues affecting Judiciary, because without a strong legal profession, you cannot talk of the rule of law”, he added.

Meanwhile, Justice Onnoghen commended the author of the book, Mrs Ewuwuni Onnoghen-Theophilus, stressing that youths should be encouraged to enable them contribute meaningfully to the general development of the country.

A former AGF, Chief Bayo Ojo, SAN, who also spoke at the book presentation, praised the resourcefulness of the author and expressed optimism that the book would serve as veritable tool to address crisis bedeviling construction industry in Nigeria.

Likewise, publisher of the book, Chief James Onoja, SAN, maintained that laws on construction industry, as brought out in the book, would serve as guide to players in the sector and help in addressing legal matters that arise from incessant cases of building collapse in the country.