ABUJA – The National Conference Standing Committee on Law, Judiciary and Human Rights on Monday agreed by consensus to recommend the establishment of Courts of Appeal to handle all matters within states.
The committee, at its resumed sitting, said Supreme Court was over-burdened by cases that should ordinarily be treated at the state level.
The resolution would make the states appellate courts to be the final courts in any state.
Chairman of the Committee, George Oguntade (SAN), told NAN that the consequence was the delay being experienced in the administration of justice in the country.
“We have too much congestion in our courts and the cost of litigation from the High Court, Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court is too much for our people and invariably, many are not able to afford it.
“The result is many people are unwittingly denied access to justice. This design whereby you have judgement against you in the High Court, you go to the Court of Appeal next door, will reduce radically the cost of litigation in Nigeria.
“It will therefore, deliver greater justice to everybody,” Oguntade said.
He explained that the committee set up various sub-committees to work on different aspects of the duties assigned to it.
He expressed optimism that the committee would meet the deadline of submitting its report to conference at plenary on Monday next week.
“We shall manage our time very well and ensure that we meet the deadline,” he said.
The Emir of Gummi, who is a member of the committee and a retired chief judge, Justice Lawal Gummi, said the resolution would make the states appellate courts the final court for state matters.
Gummi said, “If you look at the current docket of the Supreme Court, even if no further appeals are filed now, it will take the Supreme Court from 10 to 20 years to complete the appeals that are pending.
“Some of those appeals, mind you, are on small matters, inconsequential matters like interlocutory applications, some like chieftaincy matters, land matters.
“There is no reason why chieftaincy matters should go up to the Supreme Court of a country. It should end in the highest court of the state from where the dispute arose. That is our position.
“Therefore, we are advocating that in all states, there should be a state Court of Appeal where all state matters would end with only a right of appeal on constitutional matters and or matters of grave national importance that will now go on appeal with the leave of the Supreme Court.”
The committee also debated on whether or not the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) should be Chairman, National Judicial Commission (NJC).
After heated debate on the matter, however, most members supported the appointment of a retired CJN as NJC Chairman before the committee adjourned. (NAN)