Innovative Proposals: Let’s have Regional Supreme Courts by Steve Sun
I do believe that whatever affects our Legal System, invariably affects the Legal Profession.
When you sum up for instance, the number of years it takes to conclude a Land matter from a State High Court all the way to the Supreme Court, you would find that it usually adds up to about 30 or 40 years. This, in my humble opinion is most unacceptable and ought to be seriously condemned and addressed, otherwise, when confidence in the legal system is eroded, confidence in the Legal Profession will automatically be eroded as well.
It is my humble suggestion that there should be a Regional Supreme Court for each of the six geo-political zones.
That is to say:
Supreme Court of the South-East Zone of Nigeria;
Supreme Court of the South-West Zone of Nigeria;
Supreme Court of the South-South Zone of Nigeria;
Supreme Court of the North-East Zone of Nigeria;
Supreme Court of the North-West Zone of Nigeria;
Supreme Court of the North-Central Zone of Nigeria;
NOMENCLATURE OF HEADS OF COURT:
There shall be six “Deputy Chief Justices of Nigeria” to wit:
Deputy Chief Justice of Nigeria for South-East (DCJN, South-East);
Deputy Chief Justice of Nigeria for South-West (DCJN, South-West); and so on and so forth..
For avoidance of doubt and confusion, the jurisdiction of these new regional Apex Courts, should be very clear and unambiguous and may be couched in the following words:
“An appeal to the Supreme Court of each zone, shall lie from any Court of Appeal in that zone, PROVIDED that the matter/suit emanated or originated in the first instance from a decision of a High Court of any of the States in that zone”.
In other words, State High Courts shall no longer have any business or nexus with the Supreme Court of Nigeria, while all appeals at the Supreme Court of Nigeria, must have originated from the Federal High Court or Election Tribunals.
PROVIDED that decisions of the regional Apex Courts shall not be binding on any court outside their zone.
Existing decisions of the Supreme Court of Nigeria shall however remain binding on these new courts.
The Supreme Court of the South-East should be located at Enugu, the Enugu State Capital;
The Supreme Court of the South-West should be located at Ibadan, the Oyo State Capital..
The Supreme Court of the South-South should be located at Calabar, the Cross-River State Capital.
I am not very conversant with the North, so i would limit my suggestions as to locations, to the south.
APPOINTMENTS AND COMPOSITION:
The regional Supreme Courts shall have 19 Justices each, inclusive of the DCJN.
9 of the Justices shall come/hail from the particular zone in which the court is located, while the remaining 10 shall come from other zones (two from each zone).
The appointment of Justices of the Regional Supreme Courts, shall be in the same manner as appointment of Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and the appointment of the various DCJNs shall also be in the same manner as appointment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
The Courts shall comprise of six panels with three Justices making up each panel.
A person shall not be a DCJN in his region of origin(this will make for greater impartiality).
QUALIFICATION AND REMUNERATION:
Qualification and remuneration shall be the same as those for Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
The above suggestions can of course be developed further.
Counterpart-funding between the States comprising each region and the Federal Government.
I strongly believe that these suggestions will revolutionize justice-delivery in Nigeria by drastically reducing the delay associated with litigation in Nigeria, and thereby restore the masses’ hope and confidence that justice can be attained in a timely fashion.
It also goes without saying that we need at least one more Court of Appeal in each Geopolitical zone, to reduce congestion!
NB: The above suggestion is obviously not exhaustive. And can be improved upon as time goes by.
Steve Sun is a Legal practitioner, a social commentator and an activist.