A bill seeking to reduce the category of appeals that get to the supreme court suffered a setback in the house of representatives on Thursday.
The bill was being considered for second reading before the lawmakers rejected it.
The bill, titled “Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Fifth Alteration) Bill, 2020”, seeks to make all appeals filed at the supreme court go through leave, “that is, the court is to determine by way of application whether a particular case deserves its attention”.
Leading the debate during the plenary session on Thursday, Onofiok Luke, lawmaker from Akwa Ibom and sponsor of the bill, said the supreme court is overburdened by a large number of cases.
Luke, who is the chairman of the house committee on judiciary, said the constitution grants unlimited jurisdiction to the supreme court to handle all cases, adding that this gives “litigants the unfettered right in most cases to approach the court on any issue”.
“Some litigants and lawyers have exploited this loophole and filed all manner of undeserving and unmerited cases and interlocutory applications before the court,” he said.
“It is in this vein that this constitutional alteration is proposed to limit appeals to the supreme court.”
Some lawmakers, who contributed to the debate, cautioned that the bill should be duly scrutinised at the committee stage.
Toby Okechukwu, deputy minority leader of the house, said there is a need to enhance efficiency in the administration of justice, but added that other alternatives should be explored to address the concerns raised as it relates to the apex court.
“It is very good to interrogate it and find out if there are some other alternatives that will address the issue of the load without lord justices in the supreme court,” he said.
“I understand the concern of the chairman in this direction. It should go to constitutional review, but it should be properly interrogated.”
The bill was, however, rejected by majority of the lawmakers after it was put to a voice vote by Idris Wase, deputy speaker of the house.