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Politics

Reps back bill to set timeframe for Supreme Court Justices appointment

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed through a second reading a bill seeking to set a timeframe for the appointment of justices to the Supreme Court of Nigeria when vacancies occur.

The private member bill, sponsored by Hon. Sulaiman Abubakar Gumi, seeks to alter paragraph 2 of Section 231 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

In his lead debate, Hon. Gumi, who solicited the House’s intervention, underscored the need to set a timeframe for the appointment of justices into the Supreme Court of Nigeria when vacancies occur, with a view to preventing vacuums and thus ensuring the speedy delivery of cases before the Apex Court.

He said, “The year 2023 will go down in history as the year our dear country witnessed repeated calls by retired justices and lawyers on the need to urgently fill the vacant seats at the Supreme Court Bench so as to reduce the workload on jurists.

“The dwindling number of justices on the bench of the Supreme Court, according to lawyers, constituted a delay in the quick dispensation of justice. At the valedictory ceremony of a Supreme Court Justice, Abdul Aboki, on September 15, 2022, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, then in acting capacity, submitted that the exit of one justice meant an additional workload on the remaining jurists.

“When Justice Amina Augie retired in 2023, having reached the mandatory age of 70, the number of Justices at the Supreme Court was reduced to 11 as against the prescribed 21 Justices as the full complement of the Court’s bench, thus having dire implications for the administration of justice and rule of law in Nigeria.

“Mr Speaker and my Honourable Colleagues, this is a sad commentary on our managerial abilities as a nation; hence, there is an urgent need to alter the Section that deals with the appointment of Chief Justice and Justices of the Supreme Court,” he noted

According to him, the proposed bill seeks to alter Paragraph 2 of Section 231 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, by placing a time frame for the appointment of Justices of the Supreme Court once vacancies exist.

“Accordingly, Section 231 (2) of the Constitution should be altered by adding subsection (a): ‘(a) Subject to existing vacancies, the National Judicial Council shall within two months recommend a person to be appointed as a Justice of the Supreme Court to the President for Senate Confirmation’.

To this end, the House referred the bill to the Special Ad-hoc Committee on Constitution Review, chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, for further legislative action.

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