The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, has sworn in eight new Justices of the Supreme Court.
The swearing-in ceremony held on Friday at the Supreme Court in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
Shortly after the eight justices took turn to take their oath of office and oath of allegiance to the Nigerian Constitution, the CJN gave his remarks.
Justice Muhammad warned the newly appointed justices of the apex court to shun extraneous considerations while discharging their duties.
The justices, who were recently elevated from the Court of Appeal bench, comprise seven men and one woman, as well as five appointees from the North and three from the South.
They include Lawal Garba (North West), Helen Ogunwumiju (South West), Abdu Aboki (North West), and Mohammed Saulawa (North West).
Others are Adamu Jauro (North East), Samuel Oseji (Souty South), Tijani Abubakar (North East), and Emmanuel Agim (South South).
He was also confident that the new justices would remain morally upright as judicial officers with high integrity.
The courtroom was filled to capacity as lawyers, friends and associates of the newly appointed Supreme Court justices thronged the court to witness the swearing-in ceremony.
Notable among those present was a former Director-General of the Nigeria Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Professor Epiphany Azinge, as well as the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu, among others.
The recent inauguration of the judicial officers has raised the number of justices of the Supreme Court from 12 to 20.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, has ordered the heads of various courts to immediately speed up the trial of cases and decongestion of custodial centres in the country.
In a statement personally signed by him on Friday, he said there was a need to take the urgent measures in view of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Justice Muhammad, who is also the Chairman of the National Judicial Council, explained that the United Nations had called for the reduction of the population of prison inmates to aid physical distancing in such facilities.
According to him, records show that Nigeria has about 74,127 inmates at various custodial centres and 52,226 are Awaiting Trial Persons (ATPs).
The CJN was worried that most of the centres were housing inmates beyond their capacities and the congested facilities were harmful to the health of the inmates.
He, therefore, directed the heads of courts to urgently visit all custodial and correctional centres within their jurisdictions to identify and release deserving inmates, where that has not been done already.
Justice Muhammad recommended the conditional and unconditional release, as well as payment of fines of awaiting trial persons depending on the categories they fall within.
He also asked the justices to forward a report of their visits to him for compilation and onward transmission to the relevant authorities.
Read the full statement by the CJN below:
RE: URGENT NEED FOR SPEEDY TRIAL OF CASES AND DECONGESTION OF CUSTODIAL CENTRES
Ref. No. NJC/CIR/HOC/II/662 15th May 2020
To: All Chief Judges,
States Judiciaries and FCT.
I wish to draw Your Lordships attention to the need to take urgent measures towards the speedy trial of cases and decongestion of custodial centres in the country in view of COVID-19 Pandemic.
Recently, the United Nations called on countries of the World to consciously reduce the population of prison inmates since physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible.
From available records, the inmates’ population at various custodial centres across the country presently stands at about 74,127 out of which 52,226 are Awaiting Trial Persons (ATPs).
Most of these custodial centres are presently housing inmates beyond their capacities and the overcrowded facilities pose a potent threat to the health of the inmates and the public in general in view of the present circumstances, hence the need for urgent steps to bring the situation under control.
Considering the above, it has become imperative for Your Lordships to embark on an immediate visit to all custodial/correctional centres within your respective States to identify and release deserving inmates, where that has not been done already.
During the requested visit, the Chief Judges are enjoined to consider the conditional or unconditional release of Awaiting Trial Persons who have spent 6 years or more in custody.
ATPs who have no confirmed criminal cases against them, aged inmates and terminally ill may be discharged.
It is expected that particular attention should be on the aged, those with health issues, low-risk offenders, those with no sufficient legal basis to remain in custody, inmates convicted for minor offences with or without the option of fines and inmates who have less than 3 years term left to serve having served a substantial term of their service for offences that attract 5 years and above.
Payment of fines may be made in favour of inmates convicted of lesser offences with the option of fine, who are in custody because of their inability to pay such fines.
The list of deserving inmates as provided by the Correctional Service Formations across the Country with above criteria is hereby attached for your guidance.
A report on the proposed visits is required to be forwarded to me for compilation and onward transmission to Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion Secretariat, Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja.
Finally, there is the need to ensure that Your Lordships direct lower courts to comply with requirements of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act/law in issuing remand warrants in criminal cases especially in cases which are not within their jurisdiction.
This will regulate the volume of entry of Awaiting Trial Inmates into custodial centres.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, has extended the suspension of court sittings till further notice.
This was contained in a statement by the CJN on Monday evening.
According to the CJN, the extension is necessary because of the measures in place to fight COVID-19.
“In view of the fact that the initial two weeks suspension of courts sittings will expire on 7th April 2020, I hereby extend the suspension of court sittings till further notice, given the lockdown measure put in place by Federal and some state governments to curb the spread of COVID-19,” the CJN’s statement read in part.
Despite the extension, the CJN said courts would sit for urgent and time-bound matters.
“Your lordships are, however, to note that courts are expected to sit particularly to dispense matters that are urgent, essential or time-bound in line with our extant laws,” the CJN, who is also the Chairman of the National Judicial Council, added.
The extension comes two weeks after Justice Muhammad ordered all heads of courts in the country to suspend court sittings.
In a statement posted on NJC website on Monday, the CJN asked courts to only entertain Despite the suspension however, court will only entertain “matters that are urgent, essential or time bound according to the nation’s extant laws.”
Justice Muhammad also directed all federal judicial bodies to continue working while ensuring that members of the public coming for official matters.
Similarly, meetings and conferences are expected not to exceed the recommended number of 50.
Secondus said, “In other to avoid an imminent breakdown of law and order, the PDP demands that Justice Tanko Muhammad immediately steps down as CJN and chairman of the National Judicial Council as Nigerians have lost confidence in him and a Supreme Court under his leadership.”
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court nullified the election of the PDP candidate, Mr Emeka Ihedioha, as the governor of Imo State.
It, thereafter, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Ihedioha and give same to Senator Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Party (APC).
The judgement has sparked mixed reactions from the ruling and opposition parties, as the APC celebrated the victory while the PDP rejected the decision of the apex court.
In his reaction, the PDP national chairman alleged that the judgement was a product of manipulation, and clear coup d’etat against the will of the people of Imo State.
He demanded that the decision of the Supreme Court on the election be reviewed and reversed in the interest of justice.
Secundus also asked the CJN and members of the panel to recuse themselves from the pending petitions on Sokoto, Bauchi, Benue, Adamawa, Kano, and Plateau States.
“Justice Tanko must not head the panel to determine the remaining election petitions before the Supreme Court,” he said.
The PDP national chairman added, “We demand that Justice Tanko Mohammed, the CJN and his colleagues on the Imo governorship panel recuse themselves from the remaining cases involving PDP in the Supreme Court.”
But the court rose some minutes after the hearing commenced due to the crowd and the noise level in the court.
As part of efforts to decongest the court, the CJN directed counsels representing the parties not to appear with more than five lawyers.
He, however, granted the parties in the case to witness the proceedings and until that was done, Justice Muhammad ordered that the hearing be put on hold.
Thereafter, politicians who were not parties in any of the appeals were asked to leave the courtroom as the police deploy a dog to assist in the decongestion process.
After carrying out the directive of the CJN to decongest the courtroom, the court resumed proceedings.
The appeals were brought before the court by various aggrieved candidates in the March 9 polls in the affected states.
The apex court is hearing the appeals filed by the governorship candidates 10 months after the elections held in the affected states.
The governors returned elected by the independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the states are Emeka Ihedioha (Imo), Bala Mohammed (Bauchi), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Simon Lalong (Plateau), and Samuel Ortom (Benue).
“Considering the nature of the type of war we are now engaged in, the military cannot function effectively without public support.”
“If we juxtapose this with the increasing focus and the criticism of military operations at both local and international levels, the need to act within the laid down military operations, therefore, becomes undeniably imperative.”
However, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, expressed concerns over allegations raised by some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO), about the military, disregarding human rights and international laws.
“It is no longer news that several reports by Non-Governmental Organisations have alleged grave violations of international laws and human rights by the Nigerian military.”
“Unfortunately, these mostly unverified allegations have overtime portrayed the military in a bad light and have, as well, impacted negatively on our fight against insurgency. While most of the allegations are untrue, they nevertheless caused mistrust between the military and civil populace, while also affecting relations between Nigeria and some of its allies.”
The National Judicial Council is scheduled to meet on Thursday to deliberate on the appointment of a new Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN.
The current CJN, Justice Aloma Mukhtar, who is the first female and the 13th indigenous CJN, will retire on Nov 20 upon attaining the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Barring any last minute change, Mukhtar is likely to be succeeded by Justice Mahmud Mohammed, who is currently the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court.
In fulfillment of constitutional provisions on the appointment of the CJN, the Federal Judicial Service Commission, FJSC had met on October 23 and submitted a list of the next three most senior Justices of the Supreme Court to the NJC.
The NJC is expected to meet on Thursday to recommend one of those on the list to President Goodluck Jonathan.
Top on the FJSC’s recommended list is Justice Mohammed, who is currently the Deputy Chairman of the NJC. The CJN is the Chairman of both the NJC and the FJSC.
Others on the list are said to be two other Justices of the Supreme Court in order of seniority, Justices Walter Onnoghen and Tanko Muhammad.
Usually, the most senior among those recommended by the FJSC, and who is next to the outgoing CJN is appointed the new Chief Justice by the President.
The President’s choice often requires approval by the Senate in line with section 231(1) of the Constitution.
A source at the FJSC, who is familiar with the processes of appointing the nation’s CJN, confirmed the development to Channels Television correspondent on Sunday.
“By sending additional two names to accompany the next most senior Justice of the Supreme Court is just to fulfil all righteousness. It is almost certain that the NJC at its meeting on Thursday will recommend Justice Mohammed to the President and the President will then appoint him as the next CJN,” the source said.
Paragraph 21(a) and (a) (i) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which guides the appointment of the CJN, Justices/judges and heads of various federal courts, says,
“The National Judicial Council shall have power to:
“Recommend to the President from among the list of persons submitted to it by – the Federal Judicial Service Commission, persons for appointment to the offices of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the Justices of the Supreme Court, the President and Justices of the Court of Appeal and the Chief Judge and judges of the Federal High Court.”