The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola says the Supreme Court handled 1,271 cases including motions and appeals in the outgoing 2022/2023 Legal Year.
Ariwoola said this at the opening of the 2023/2024 new legal year on Monday in Abuja.
The event also featured conferment of the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) on 58 legal practitioners.
Ariwoola stated: “Out of these, we heard 388 political appeals, 215 criminal appeals and 464 civil appeals.
“Similarly, the court considered a total number of 49 criminal motions, 153 civil motions, and 2 political motions.
“Between September 30, 2022 and July 11, 2023, the supreme court delivered a total number of 251 judgments. Out of these, 125 were political appeals, 81 were civil appeals and 45 were criminal appeals.
“Within the period under review, precisely 10 months’ duration, a total number of 91 rulings were delivered by the honourable court.
”To a very large extent, I will confidently say that this score-card is impressive, fascinating and appreciable in view of the unpleasant events that dotted the legal year, especially the attenuating number of justices on the supreme court bench, which has to do with some challenges that could not easily be surmounted by one arm of government alone.
“I attribute the tremendous successes recorded in the course of the last legal year by the honourable court to the doggedness exhibited by my industrious and team-spirited brother Justices and the general staff”.
Meanwhile, Ariwoola urged the new SANs not to take for granted the honour newly conferred on them, pointing out that they were successful out of 114 applicants.
He added: “While 57 of the new SANs are from the advocate, only one emerged successful from the academics.
“As Senior Advocates of Nigeria, you now carry heavy burden on your shoulders from the moment you leave this courtroom, everything in you and about you will now be freely scrutinised and dissected by everyone that comes in contact with you.
“There is nothing like private life for you henceforth, as whatever you hitherto regarded as private life will now be treated as public life by members of the public; and there is nothing you can do about it.
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“So, watch your utterances, watch your actions and watch the kind of company you keep, because you have already assumed the role of ministers of the court, as you are now expected to assist the court to attain justice, equity and fairness in all ramifications”.
The CJN called for respect for the rule of law and the holistic independence of the judiciary.
“The Judiciary, as it is today, is more deserving of public trust and confidence than ever before.
Ariwoola stated “If the faith of the people is to be maintained in the Judiciary, then judges must be above board, deliver justice without fear or favour.
“So, I admonish all of us to always be impartial in all our judgments.
“I am saying all these now because I will never have this great privilege and opportunity to address the galaxies of legal luminaries, judicial icons and distinguished personalities in the justice sector of our dear nation in another legal year of the supreme court as Chief Justice of Nigeria again.”
He assured Nigerians that he would do everything possible to ensure that the apex court attains its full complement of 21 justices before he retires next year.
“Currently, there are just 10 justices on the bench of the apex court; the lowest in the history of the apex court.
“As soon as I assumed office on June 27, 2022, I immediately got down to work on this urgent and immediate need in particular.
“Though we have not gotten them on board yet, I can convincingly assure the litigant public that within a very short while, the supreme court will, for the very first time in its history, get the constitutionally-prescribed full complement of 21 Justices.
“That is one of the legacies I have been working assiduously to leave behind as it now seems that the court has been somewhat ‘jinxed’ from meeting its constitutional requirement since that piece of legislation was enacted several years ago”.
He admonished Nigerians on the imperative of being less litigious and be more disposed to alternative dispute resolutions to free the courts from some unnecessary cases which are over-stretching both human and material resources.
He called for the amendment of the law to end most appeals at the Court of Appeal, which he said is competent, dexterous and well-equipped with the right materials and manpower to adjudicate effectively and resourcefully.
Ariwoola stated: “In every dispute, only one party must win; and winning could come after intense legal fireworks that is transparent and based solely on subsisting laws of the land.
“We cannot import foreign laws to try our cases here, as some litigants would erroneously and desperately want us to do in the quest to get victory.
“If we really want to make progress as a nation and collectively build a virile legal framework that will serve our interest to the best of its ability, we must begin to have a change of attitude.
“We are not only here to celebrate the new legal year but to equally speak truth to ourselves and also purge ourselves of most of our wrongdoings and misadventures”.