Abuja — The Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, has called on the justices of the Supreme Court to nominate suitable candidates for appointment as justices into the bench of the apex court.
The move, which was sequel to an earlier request by President Muhammadu Buhari, is aimed at meeting the constitutional requirements of 21 justices on the bench of the Supreme Court.
Currently, the Supreme Court has 15 justices on the bench, after the voluntary retirement of former CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, some weeks back.
In a memo dated June 11, 2019 and signed by the Acting CJN, those to be nominated by the justices of the apex court must have proven competence to occupy the bench of the apex court.
The memo a copy of which was sighted by THISDAY, was titled 'Appointment of Six Justices to the Supreme Court of Nigeria'.
It read: "By the provisions of section 230(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the Supreme Court of Nigeria shall consist of the CJN and such number of justices of the Supreme Court, not exceeding twenty-one, as maybe prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.
"As there are 15 justices on the bench at present, it is necessary to take steps to fill the remaining six vacancies to make 21 justices.
"I shall be grateful if you could nominate suitable candidates for consideration for appointment as justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria".
The Acting CJN however told the justices of the apex court to accompany the names of their nominees with 10 judgments delivered by him or her in contested cases in the last two years preceding the date of nomination in the case of judicial officers and 10 Judgments obtained in contested cases five years preceding the date of nomination in the case of legal practitioners in private practice and certified by competent authorities.
The justices in addition are requested to comment on the suitability of the candidates nominated by them.
The justices however have up till June 25, 2019 to send in their nominees
President Buhari had in a statement issued by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, urged the acting CJN to initiate moves for the appointment of five more justices for the apex court.
Shehu said the president wrote: "Pursuant to the provisions of Section 230(2) A&B of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), I am pleased to request that you initiate in earnest the process of appointing additional five Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to make the full complement of 21 Justices as provided by the aforementioned provisions of the Constitution.
"This is in line with the Government's Agenda of repositioning the Judiciary in general and Supreme Court in particular for greater efficiency, with a view to reducing the backlogs of appeals pending at the Supreme Court."