Retired Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi of the Court of Appeal, Jos Division, has stressed the need for the decentralisation of the Supreme Court to speed up the dispensation of justice in the country.
Oniyangi, who made the call while speaking with newsmen in Abuja, said that the workload for the Judges in Nigeria was too much in most cases.
The Kwara born retired jurist said the dicentralisation of the Apex court would enable assigned justices in each geopolitical zone to handle cases without congesting the court in Abuja.
According to him, Supreme Court has a number of cases but my question is why is the Supreme Court not decentralised in every geopolitical zone.
The headquarters 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.”
The jurist also called for a division of the Court of Appeal in every ,state to aid the reduction of pending cases, noting that the court was short of manpower.
“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 problems happening in every case rather than the present number that we have. It will reduce congestion or risks on the road,” he added.
While arguing that the judges could not cope with the volumes of court cases assigned to them, said that the delay in delivering judgement in most cases was not the fault of the Judge.
He blamed unnecessary delay in dispensation of Justice, particularly in cases involving politics to the inability of parties to present witnesses before the court.
He said that the delay most times caused by parties involved in the case as they might keep requesting for more time to present witnesses to testify before the court.
Speedy dispensation of justice as far as I am concerned and my experience in the bench, in 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 per cent of these courts sit on time,” he said.
Oniyangi also observed that low funding of the judiciary and poor infrastructure, among other factors, were responsible for delayed justice in the country.
He said that there was the need for provision of recording machine instead manual method of operation which also added to the cause of delay in doing work.
According to him, the workload on judges was too high, adding that a judge may handle 1,000 civil, criminal and commercial cases because there are no specialised courts.
“The workload for the judges in Nigeria is too much in most cases. Unlike the advanced countries, a judge will conduct a pre-trial, after sanitising 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. A judge may be assigned to 1,000 files in a court which is on every subject; commercial, criminal, civil.”
Oniyangi, who began his Judiciary career as a clerk in 1973, had worked in several states of Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory Abuja.(NAN)(www.nannews.ng)