Nigerian Lawyers Want 'Constitutional Courts' to Handle Election Matters

19 September 2019

The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria on Thursday called for the establishment of constitutional courts, so as to reduce the workload on the existing ones in the country.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Adegboyega Awomolo, made the call on behalf of the body on Thursday at a valedictory session held in honour of retired Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Adamu Abdu-Kafarati.

Mr Awomolo said these courts will effectively handle pre and post-election cases so that other courts can adjudicate in other civil and criminal cases.

He expressed regrets over the earlier proposal for the courts "that was struck down due to lack of foresight".

The lawyer said the establishment of constitutional courts must be revisited and reintegrated into the constitution of the country in compliance with Section 250.

Mr Awomolo said all political matters, including pre and post-election matters and election petitions, will effectively be handled by such courts, "while all appeals from the court will terminate in the Court of Appeal".

He said each state would then have its own Court of Appeal and "that only constitutional matters will go to the Supreme Court".

Congested courts

He said with the revelation by the Federal High Court that over 16,000 cases were carried over from 2018 to 2019 legal year, with many of the cases filed over four years ago, "the trend must not be allowed any longer because it can lead to denial of justice".

"Decongestion in all the courts have become a great burden, a source of concern and embarrassment. In the Supreme Court, only political cases are being heard on a daily basis," he said.

"Indeed, every day, on the course list of the Supreme Court, there are about 12 to 15 cases for hearing. The Court of Appeal in all the divisions are daily preoccupied with pre and post-election cases.

"Most high courts are occupied with political cases and most judicial officers from the high courts to Supreme Court have no vacation this year due to heavy workload of cases in their courts.

"The consequences of these is that litigants in ordinary civil cases and matters are groaning in pains because justice has been and is still being denied them due to delays in their matters," he said.

Mr Awomolo also called on "the Bar and the Bench to push for a constitutional amendment to back up the establishment of the suggested constitutional courts".

Also as part of their call, the body of senior lawyers said the Code of Conduct Tribunal which has been elevated to the criminal court must be seen as a judicial body as a result of the enormous powers invested in it

They added that it must be made a part of the court under Section 6(5) of the constitution and that any person to be appointed to head it "must be certified fit and proper".

Meanwhile, in his speech, the acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, John Tsoho, commended the contributions of his immediate predecessor for the enactment of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules 2019.

He said the new Rules introduced a "remarkable departure from the old Rules and also constituted an anti-corruption unit in the court to avoid corruption".

On his part, the retired Chief Judge thanked other judges for their contribution in making his tenure as head of the court successful.

The event had in attendance the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, lawyers and traditional rulers.

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