According to the late legendary human rights activists, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, our legal system is fundamentally fraud because Supreme Court judgment is a minority judgment. Now, the constitution has provided the number of justices in the supreme court which is 21, including the chief justice of Nigeria which makes it 22 and this can be seen in section 230(2)(a)&(b) of the CFRN 1999 As amended.
Section 230 provides that the Supreme Court of Nigeria shall consist of (a) The Chief Justice of Nigeria (b) Such number of Justices of the Supreme Court, not exceeding Twenty One as may be prescribed by act of National Assembly.
The same constitution also provide that in ordinary or normal matters, the supreme court is duly constituted if at least five justices are seated and in constitutional matters, at least seven justices are enough to duly constitute the supreme court , this can be seen in section 234 of the constitution which provides that:
“for the purpose of exercising any jurisdiction conferred upon it by this constitution or any law, the supreme court shall be duly constituted if it consist of not less than five justices of the supreme court;
Provided that where the supreme court is sitting to consider an appeal brought under section 232(2)(b)or(c) of this constitution, or to exercise its original jurisdiction in accordance with section 232 of this constitution, the court shall be constituted by seven justices”
It is to be noted that we only have sixteen justices including who sit in the Supreme Court including the CJN and it is only five justices who sit in most cases and since the constitution has set the numbers of justices that can duly constitute the Supreme Court to just five.
five out of 16 is around 1\3 or one quarter of the number of justices at the supreme court, such decisions taken by this justices who are not up to half of the number of the justices in the supreme court is what I will term a minority judgment and this does not speak well of the supreme court at all.
Let’s take a look at United States, in the American Supreme Court, all justices of the Supreme Court are always on sit for every matter also, in Ukraine which is located in Europe, all justices of the Ukrainian supreme court are always on sit for every matter and therefore you can classify judgment by these courts as majority judgment.
For every mistake or error, there must surely be a solution, in view of this am going to give some recommendations on how to solve this issue.
- The constitutional provision on the numbers of justices that duly constitute the Supreme Court should be moved to nine in every matter be it constitutional or normal matters.
- Justices should be appointed into the Supreme Court in order to have 21 justices in the Supreme Court as provided by the constitution.
- If possible, a provision should be included in the Supreme Court rules compelling the justices that are available to sit on every case except those that are sick or incapacitated.
- The salaries of judges in the supreme Court should be increased. Considering the fact that the other arms of government pockets huge amount of money.what is good for the goose is good for gander.
With these recommendations, I can assure you that our judiciary will improve and be well respected not only by the masses but also by the international community.
But before then God bless Nigeria!!
Toheeb Mustapha Bàbálọla is a pupil of law and a student of faculty of law, Bayero University, Kano.