Over 5, 000 appeals are still pending before the Supreme Court, some of them dating back to 2005, Daily Trust reports.
The apex court was only able to deliver 1018 judgments from 2011 till date, averaging 203 cases per annum.
The pace at which the court disposed of cases increased from 163 judgments in 2010/2011 legal year to 268 in 2015/2016 according to the SCN official sources.
However, lawyers and litigants worry that at this rate the thousands of cases pending might not be heard for a long time.
Other cases, both civil and criminal, have stayed longer even though officials said such cases were either abandoned or the lawyers did not file necessary papers. Judges and lawyers attribute the congestion at the apex to constitutional constraints as well as the inability of the government to appoint more justices to the Supreme Court to make up the numbers.
They point out that all manner of cases go up to the Supreme Court stressing that constitutional amendment is required to terminate certain cases at the lower courts so as to reduce pressure on the apex court.
They also point out that at no time has the Supreme Court achieved the threshold of 21 justices.
In an election year hundreds of cases emanating from election disputes add up to the congestions at the court and they get priority because they have to be disposed of within 60 days from the date of the delivery of judgment by the tribunal.
Former Chief Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais had once said that the increasing number of appeals from the lower courts often caused delays at the apex Court. He said on May 19, 2014, while swearing in George A Oguntade and Sunday A Akintan as justices of the Supreme Court that unless the constitution was amended to limit the number and nature of appeals to the Supreme Court from the Appeal Court, the apex court would continue to experience delays.
It was in 2011/2012 that Supreme Court handed down a large number of political judgments which was a fall out from the 2011 general elections.
In the 2015/2016 legal year, the Supreme Court confirmed its status as the most overworked Supreme Court in the world, when it heard 1489 matters, consisting of 908 motions and 581 substantive appeals and delivering 268 Judgments in that period.
During the 2015/2016 Legal Year, the apex court received about ten new appeals per week coupled with the already existing appeals which created court congestion. To resolve the congestion, one of the major achievements of Chief Justice Mahmud Mohammed was to create a situation where two panels will sit at the same time.
In the 2014/ 2015 Legal Year, the Supreme Court heard 1578 matters, consisting of 1009 motions and 569 substantive appeals, delivering 262 Judgments in that period.
In the 2013/2014 legal year, the Supreme Court had 1288 cases, made up of 180 Civil Appeals, and 86 Criminal Appeals. In addition the Court entertained 44 political appeals.
At the same time 83 civil judgments and 42 criminal judgments along with 21 political judgments were delivered by the Court.
In total 146 Judgments were disposed off in the 2013-2014 legal year.
During the 2012/2013 legal year, a total of 511 cases made up of 416 civil appeals, including political matters and 95 criminal appeals were filed in the Supreme Court. Of this number, 280 of the cases were heard which consisted of 224 civil and political appeals and 56 criminal appeals.
Also in the same legal year, judgment was delivered in 137 civil appeals and 42 criminal appeals bringing the total number of judgments delivered in that year to 179.
Today the SCN is made up of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Mahmud Mohammed and Fourteen (14) other Justices. They are in order of seniority- Justices Walter Samuel Onnoghen (who is most likely the next CJN); Ibrahim Tanko Muhammed, Suleiman Galadima, Rhodes-Vivour, Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta and Mary Ukaego Peter- Odili.
The rest are Justices Olukayode Ariwoola, Musa Dattijo Muhammad, Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, Kumai Bayang Akaahs, Kudirate KekereEkun, John Inyang Okoro , Chima Centus Nweze and Amiru Sanusi.
The CJN Justice Mahmud Mohammed is retiring November 10 and Justice Suleiman Galadima is also retiring next Monday (October 10), both having attained the 70 years constitutional mandatory retirement age.
In their place, President Muhammadu Buhari has nominated two other Justices for screening and confirmation by the Senate. They are Justices Ejembi Eko and Amina Augie as Justices of the Supreme Court. The duo will represent North-central and North-west respectively.
With their screening and confirmation, the SCN will still have 15 justices sitting on the apex court bench.
Although the constitution provides for not more than 21 justices for the Supreme Court, there was never a time when the court consisted of more than 18 justices during the period under review.
One of the land mark decisions of the apex court in terms of monetary value was decided during the case of Attorney General of Akwa-Ibom vs Attorney General of Cross Rivers State which transferred over 70 Oil wells from Cross Rivers State to Akwa Ibom State.
Some of the pending cases include the sovereign wealth fund suit filed by the 36 states of the Federation against the Federal Government over the dispute arising from the maintenance of the Excess Crude Account and the transfer of 1 billion dollars from the account to the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF); the Abia State and Bayelsa State governorship tussle between Governor Okezie Ikeazu Vs Mr. Sampson Ogah and Timipre Sylver Vs. Seriake Dickson, respectively. This is in addition to several other civil and criminal appeals, some of which involve the death penalty.
Source: Daily Trust
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