Creation of more courts, not solution to congestion, says CJN
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen has said reducing the volume of cases is the only way to solve the congestion problem in the nation’s courts.
He maintained that appointment of more judges as well as the creation of more judicial divisions were not the solutions. Onnoghen, who disclosed this yesterday while commissioning the Court of Appeal complex, Lagos Division, said the 17 justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria were enough in the dispensation of justice in the country.
According to him, “we always think we can solve the problem of congestion in our courts by appointing more judges and justices and creating more divisions of the courts, because the idea is that the more they are, the lesser the job or workload.
“But, this has not been proved right. It has rather been proved wrong, because the more divisions you create, the more cases get filed. The solution doesn’t lie in multiplying the number of divisions and the judges. The more judges and justices you appoint, the more cases get filed, which points to the fact that we have really not hit the nail on the head.
“It lies in the controlling of the jurisdiction of the court in the quantity of number of cases that get to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. If we have 21 or so provisions for vacancies to the Supreme Court, we believe if we appoint that number it will be the solution? No.”
In response to an issue raised by Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Vice-President, Monday Ubani, Onnoghen said that the United States and India with far more people than Nigeria had fewer Supreme Court justices.
“Apart from the physical constraints that the Supreme Court has in terms of space, there is another idea we should look at. Which of the countries in the world can you point to that has that kind of number of justices on its Supreme Court bench? There is none. Even in America as large as it is, it has nine. Go to India, it is not so.
“We say appeals should get to the Supreme Court as of right, on matters of questions of law. Yes. If it is on point of law, the point of law must be enough to attract the attention of the Supreme Court, otherwise we are just playing about.”
Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode represented by Deputy Governor, Dr. Idiat Oluranti-Adebule, commended the upgrade and pledged the state’s support for the judiciary.
Others in attendance included, Appeal Court President, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, Supreme Court Justices, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Sidi Bage, and Justices of the Sokoto, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Makurdi, Abuja, Jos and Yola Divisions of the Appeal Court.