The Nigerian Bar Association on Thursday called for the appointment of more justices of the Court of Appeal.
The President of the NBA, Paul Usoro (SAN), made the call at the valedictory court session held in honour of the President of the court, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, in Abuja on Thursday.
She will formally bow out as she attains the mandatory retirement age of 70 on Friday (today).
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, former CJN, Mahmud Mohammed, Governor Bala Mohammed and Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, were among the top figures at the valedictory court session held at the headquarters of the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
Usoro, and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), paid glowing tributes to Bulkachuwa for her contributions to the development of the judiciary.
With Bulkachuwa’s exit on Friday, there will be about 84 justices left on the Court of Appeal bench.
Speaking at the Thursday’s event, Usoro said there was the need to appoint more justices for the court, adding that deficit in the number of judges on the court’s bench “is of great concern” to lawyers.
“The justices of this court, especially those serving in some of the extremely busy divisions of the court, have been greatly overworked not just because of the litigious nature of Nigerians generally, but because of the paucity in the aggregate number of justices of the Court of Appeal.
“Ideally, some divisions, like Lagos Division of this honourable court should have not less than three panels that sit regularly and consistently to reduce and spread the workload and that means, having more justices that are posted to these divisions.
“The NBA therefore calls for the immediate appointment of additional justices of the Court of Appeal not just for the extremely busy divisions of this honourable court but for literally all the divisions, the need for which we would illustratively show presently.”
Justice Bulkachuwa was inaugurated as a Justice of the Court of Appeal on December 9, 1998.
She became the acting President of the court in November 2012 and the substantive President in April 2014.
She said her feats in academics and the legal profession “in spite of the adversaries”, were a proof that “every girl child in Nigeria and indeed the world can aspire for the great strides towards it and achieve it”.
Meanwhile, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has approved the appointment of Justice M.B. Dongban Mensem as the Acting President of the Court of Appeal, according to a State House statement on Thursday.
The appointment is for an initial period of three months, with effect from March 6, 2020, when the incumbent President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, CFR, will statutorily retire from service.