By Bukar Bolori
A Retired Judge of the Court of Appeal, Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi on Tuesday called for the decentralization of the Supreme Court to allow for speedy dispensation of justice in the country.
Oniyangi, gave this advice in Abuja while celebrating his retirement from the Bench, even as he suggested that the nation should consider establishing an appellate court in every state in the country to reduce the volume of pending cases.
Justice Oniyangi, who was until who until his retirement the Judge at the Appeal Court, Jos retired after twenty-six years on the bench.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja, Oniyangi said: “Speedy dispensation of justice as far as I am concerned and my experience on the bench, on most occasions, the court sits either 9am or just a little after 9am. But if case A is called, you either find the prosecutor or the defense counsel telling the Judge my witnesses are not ready. The Judge will never say I am not ready to handle this matter rather you would hear from the prosecutor or defense counsel saying; give us another date, or throw away the matter. The Judge will still insist and say let’s give them some time. So the court is always ready. I am not beating my chest for everybody but you will find out that 98% of these courts sit on time.
“The Supreme Court has a number of cases but my question is why is the Supreme Court not decentralized in every geopolitical zone? The headquarter can be here in Abuja as well as the Chief Justice of Nigeria but when that division is created, the Justices of the Supreme Court sent there will attend to matters in that geopolitical zone but it will be the same one Supreme Court, no division. The Justices will just be assigned to do the job there and decongest the headquarters in Abuja.
“Abuja is full to the brim, cases are pending. The Justices are trying but the number of Justices cannot cope with the pressure of jobs going on.”
Justice Oniyangi further advocated for the establishment of an appellate court in all the states of the Federation as one of the solutions to ensure speedy dispensation of justice.
He said this would have a wider implication, as it saves time and man-hour if cases are disposed of at that level state by state rather than moving to other states.
He lamented that: “The Court of Appeal is short of manpower. They need more Justices in the court. In my personal view, every state should have a division of the Court of Appeal so that they can face the issue and problem happening in every case rather than the present number that we have. It will reduce congestion or risk on the road.”
He also outlined some of the challenges confronting dispensation of justice in the country to include low fundings of the judiciary and poor infrastructure among other factors.
He said: “The workload for the Judges in Nigeria is too much in most cases. Unlike the advanced countries, a judge will conduct pre-trial, after scrutinizing the file, he passes it to the registry, then that file will pass to the Judge who will carry out the trial and that is the only file he will have pending. Here, like the high court, we don’t have specialized courts and that is why you find Judges doing criminal matters, civil matters, and commercial matters. A Judge may be assigned up to 1000 files in a court which is on every subject; commercial, criminal, civil.
“Then, we have the manual recording. The National Judiciary Council Institute has been trying its best to make sure that all courts are equipped with recording machines but the question is, where is the fund? I have heard heads of courts lamenting budget issues.
“Monies are not adequately provided for them to acquire these equipment to enhance productivity and you find most courts writing with long hands. If not when the issue of COVID-19 that everything started going virtual. You cannot compare the Court of Appeal with Trial Court. The Trial Court has the bulk of the work.”