November 27, (THEWILL) – The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Olukayode Ariwoola, has urged justices and judges across the nation, not to be moved by public opinion, but to remain firm and make decisions based on the law.
Justice Ariwoola spoke in Abuja on Monday, at a special court session, to mark the Supreme Court’s 2023/2024 legal year and the swearing-in of 58 new Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs).
Speaking on law, justice and the role of Senior Advocates Of Nigeria (SAN) in Nigeria’s development, Ariwoola said the judges owe the society a great duty to ensure cases are decided without fear or favour, affection or ill-will, friend or foe.
He maintained that the law remains the law, no matter whose interest is involved and that judges should endeavour to separate emotion from logic and assumption from fact, while deciding on cases.
“For the umpteenth time, I wish to honestly assure all judicial officers that if you are discharging your functions as an upright judicial officer by genuinely following the norms, then you have no cause to be afraid or feel intimidated by the often frivolous complaints or vitriolic attacks made by persons having vested interest.
“However, I expect every judicial officer to work very hard and also be very honest and courteous to the litigants, witnesses and members of the Bar, and discharge all your judicial functions with all humility at your command.
“Even while doing this, it is still necessary to have at the back of your minds that public opinions, sentiments or emotions can never take the place of the law in deciding the cases that come before you”, he said.
The CJN, who said the ceremony including the swearing in of 58 SANs, is the last legal year he will be presiding over before retiring, admonished the judges not to be “overwhelmed by the actions or loud voices of the mob or crowd”.
Justice Ariwoola also called for a reduction in the number of cases that make their way to the Supreme Court.
“I have made it clear on different occasions that it is not every dispute that must find its way to the court, and it is every matter that must come up to the Supreme Court on appeal.
“Our laws have to be amended to make most appeals end at the Court of Appeal, which is competent, dexterous and well-equipped with the right materials and manpower to adjudicate effectively and resourcefully”, he said.
The CJN acknowledged the current depletion on the bench of the apex court and assured that 11 new Justices would soon the appointed for the court.
“Efforts were made by my predecessor to increase the number, but that was unsuccessful before he left office.
“However, the cheering news is that as soon as I assumed office on the 27th day of June 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 of Nigeria 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 added.
On the number of cases, the CJN revealed the apex court presided over 1,271, comprising of motions and appeals, from the 12th day of September, 2022 to the 11th day of July, 2023,
“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 the 30th day of September, 2022 and the 11th day of July, 2023, the Supreme Court delivered a total number of 251 judgements.
“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”, Ariwoola added.
The CJN applauded the Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) inaugurated in 2018 by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice W.S.A Onnoghen, for helping in fast-tracking the trial of corruption and financial related crimes in the country.
“The Committee, which is headed by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Hon. Justice Suleiman Galadima, CFR, has been working assiduously with various heads of Courts, to ensure that there is a remarkable rise in the dispensation of corruption and financial crime cases in the country.
“With the impressive effort they put in during the last legal year, some commendable results were achieved in the disposal of cases.
“This achievement was brought about as a result of increased and continued vigilance of the Committee. The two leading anti-graft agencies in the country have also been trying to amplify the war against corruption.
“The ICPC was able to successfully secure a total number of 10 convictions, while the sister agency, EFCC was able to secure 1,094 convictions within the same period under review”, he added.