Four months after the National Judicial Council (NJC) recommended the appointment of four New Supreme Court Judges , President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to forward their names to the Senate for confirmation.
The NJC made the recommendation in October 2019.
Those approved were Adamu Jauro (North-East); Emmanuel A. Agim (South-south); C. Oseji (South-south); Helen M. Ogunwumiju (South-west).
The recommendations were sent to Mr Buhari who has the powers to appoint the New Supreme Court Judges with the backing of the Senate.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Mohammad, had on different occasions raised concerns over the heavy workload on justices of the apex court.
Currently, there are 12 Justice of the Supreme Court, whereas section 230 (2) (b) of the 1999 constitution provides that; “The Supreme Court of Nigeria shall consist of such number of Justices not exceeding 21 as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.”
Successive governments have also overlooked the need to have the maximum 21 justices as stipulated by the constitution.
The retirement age for Supreme Court justices is 70.
Of the current 12 justices, one of them is expected to retire in April.
He is Justice Paul Galumje.
He was born on April 21, 1950, at Didan in Kurmi Local Government Area of Taraba State. Justice Galumje was first appointed Acting Magistrate Grade II in the then Gongola Judiciary.
After Mr Galumje’s retirement in April, the apex court justices will reduce to 11.
Following suit are Justices Olabode Rhodes-Vivour and Sylvester Ngwuta. They will retire in 2021.
While Justice Rhodes-Vivour was born on March 22, 1951, on February 18, 1994, he was appointed to the Bench as a High Court Judge. He was elevated to the Bench of the Court of Appeal on April 25, 2005.
In 2008, the Federal Government posted Mr Rhodes-Vivour on secondment to Sierra Leone as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone. Upon his return to Nigeria, he was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court on September 16, 2010.
Justice Ngwuta was also born in 1951 in Amofia-Ukawu, Onicha Local government Ebonyi State. He had his basic education in the Eastern part of Nigeria and got his LLB in the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). lle-life and BL at the Nigerian law school in 1978.
Mr Ngwuta started his private legal practice at Abakaliki in July 1978-October 1995, from where he was appointed a judge of the High Court Abia State in October 1995. He was promoted to the Court of Appeal on May 22, 2003, and was sworn-in as Justice of the Supreme Court in May 2011.
Next in line is Justice Mary Odili, who will reach retirement age on May 13, 2022. She was born on May 13, 1952 at AmudiObizi, Ezinihitte – Mbaise L.G.A. of Imo State.
For the year 2023, justices expected to retire are the CJN and Amina Augie.
Justice Mohammad was born on October 27, 1953, in Chanchaga local government area in Minna, Niger State. After his primary and secondary education, he proceeded to Abdullahi Bayero college (now Bayero University) Kano 1972-1973 for the pre-degree certificate.
He got his LLB (Hons) at Ahmadu Bello University (Faculty of Law) Zaria 1973-1976, and his BL at the Nigerian Law School 1977. He proceeded to Warwick University Coventry UK for his LLM 1982-1983, and also institute of Advance Certificate in Practice procedure. After years as a judge, he was appointed to the bench of the Supreme Court on July 2012.
He was sworn in as the CJN in 2019 after the sack of Walter Onnoghen, who was convicted by the Code of Conduct Tribunal for false assets declaration.
Justice Augie was born in Anne Eva Graham on September 3, 1953. She is from Kebbi State, in the North-western part of Nigeria.
She served as a Senior State Counsel in the Office of the Chief Counsel to the then President, Shehu Shagari, after which, she was appointed Lecturer by the Nigerian Law School, Lagos.
In 1988, Mrs Augie was appointed Chief Magistrate in the Sokoto State Judiciary. Afterwards, she was elevated to the Court of Appeal Bench in 2002. On November 7, 2016, she was elevated as Justice of the Supreme Court.
Justice Ejembi Eko was born on May 23, 1952. He hails from Otukpo Local Government Area of Benue State. He was appointed Judge of the Benue State High Court on February 9, 1989, and was appointed Acting Chief Judge of Benue State from November 2005 – February 2006. He was appointed Justice of the Court of Appeal in December 2007.
He joined the Court of Appeal Bench in February 2008 and served in various Divisions of the Court of Appeal before he was elevated to the Supreme Court Bench on November 7, 2016.
He would retire in 2024.
Retiring in 2026 is Justice Uwani Musa Abba Aji, who was born on November 7, 1956, in Gashua, Yobe State.
After private practice and working in the state ministry of Justice, she was appointed Higher Court Judge of Yobe State in December 1991 making her the first Lady Judge at Yobe State Judiciary, a position she held until July 2004 when she was elevated to the Court of Appeal.
She was the Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal Kaduna Division, for four years before her elevation to the Supreme Court on January 8, 2019.
Three of the apex court justices would retire in 2028. They are Justices Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Olukayode Ariwoola and Centus Nweze.
Justice Kekere-Ekun was born on May 7, 1958. She was appointed a Senior Magistrate Grade II, Lagos State Judiciary in December 1989. She was appointed as a Judge of the High Court of Lagos State in July 1996.
She served as Chairman Robbery and Firearms Tribunal, Zone-II, Ikeja, Lagos from November 1996 to May 1999. She was elevated as a Justice of the Court of Appeal on September 22, 2004. She was appointed a Justice of Supreme Court on June 8, 2013.
Justice Ariwoola was born on August 22, 1958. He was a Justice of the Court of Appeal between 2005 and 2011 after having been elevated from the State High Court of Oyo State.
Justice Ariwoola was first appointed a Judge of Superior Court of record in Oyo State in 1992 from private legal practice. Before his elevation to the Supreme Court, he served as Justice of Court of Appeal in Kaduna, Enugu and Lagos Divisions.
He was appointed a Justice of the apex court in 2011.
Justice Centus Nweze was born on September 25. He is a native of Obollo, Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State, 1958. He started his practice at the private Bar from 1985 – 1995 before he was elevated to the High Court Bench of Enugu State in November 1995.
After then he was appointed a Justice of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria, February 15, 2008; and served there until October 2014.
Justice Nweze was finally elevated to the apex court on October 29, 2014.
Bowing out of the apex court in 2029 is Justice John Okoro. He was born July 7, 1959. His appointment as Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria was confirmed by the Senate on October 2013.
He was sworn in on November 15, 2014, by Justice Aloma Mukhtar, the former Chief Justice of Nigeria. He was arrested by the department of State Security Services (SSS), on October 8, 2016, on allegations of bribery and corruption but later reinstated after he was cleared of the allegations.
Mr Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, did not respond to text messages when contacted by this reporter for comments on why his principal is yet to take action.
Lawyer, activist, react
An activist, Olarewaju Suraj, said, “Though delay and vacillating is the hallmark of this government, there could be justification for the delay experienced in the transmission of names of judges to the National Assembly.”
According to Mr Suraj, “the internal selection of judges is subject to security vetting and there are factors to be considered by the government. Unfortunately, many of those cases are not subject to public knowledge and engagement. For whatever reason and purpose, the government is obligated to take a decision within a reasonable period of time.
“This government must be made to understand and realise the imperative of prompt and timely response to national matters of this nature. You can imagine that accusations and counter-accusations of political parties against justices of the Supreme Court by political parties on the Imo and Bayelsa governorship appeal matters.”
On his part, Inibehe Effiong noted that “By virtue of Section 230 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution, the Supreme Court has a threshold of 21 Justices. Unfortunately, the apex court rarely meets that number of justices. This has invariably hampered the efficacy and functionality of the Supreme Court.
“Thousands of civil and criminal appeals are currently before the Court with little hope of timely determination. This palpable situation has been worsened by the reduction in the number of Justices of the Supreme Court, Mr Effiong added.
“It is regrettable that President Buhari does not appreciate the urgency of the situation. The justice system in Nigeria is too slow. There is s need for the leadership of the judiciary to officially remind the President of the pending recommendations. The National Assembly should look into the matter as a matter of urgent national importance.”