By Patrick Andrew
Human rights activist and delegate to the National Conference, Chief Mike Ozekhome, yesterday advocated the establishment of state Supreme Court to help in reducing backlog of cases pending at the Supreme Court.
The lawyer, who decried the existing central Supreme Court structure because it greatly contributes to the delay in dispensing justice, especially electoral justice, said setting up Supreme Courts in states will facilitate the speedy disposal of cases and thus decongest prisons.
According to him, the high number of inmates in Nigerian prison was largely because of the concentration of cases at the Supreme Court leading to the slow treatment of cases, saying that such practice falls short of modern standard practices.
Ozekhome, who captured this a position paper he presented to Committee on Law, Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters yesterday when the committee began sitting, said states should be allowed to have hierarchy of law courts, from the lowest to the highest as it is with the federal government.
He urged delegates to the conference to fashion out a new constitution for the country that will devolved legal powers to states judicial system for quick dispensation of justice and thus ensure that the central Supreme Court was relieved of its cumbersome burden.
The Activist further canvassed for increased in the number of justices in the country and suggests that the retirement age of the judges be pegged at 80 years from the existing ceiling of 70 years.
“Retirement age for judges must be made to be voluntary or the ceiling be put at 80 against the present 70 years, “he said.
Speaking in support of restructuring of the judiciary, retired Justice Adamu Bello, said there was a need to reshape the system to allow for justice at all levels, and without undue delay in the dispensation of justice.
The Justice said any matter or petitions against state judges should be made to go through the State Judicial Service as against the present structure that allows the National Judicial Commission to handle such matters.
He suggested that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, be stripped of his or her roles of presiding over the affairs of the National Judicial Commission in the proposed constitution.