ABUJA – The Senate on Tuesday confirmed the nomination of Justice Mahmud Mohammed as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
The confirmation followed President Goodluck Jonathan’s letter to the parliament requesting Mohammed’s appointment to be approved to replace outgoing Justice Aloma Muhktar.
Earlier Sen. Victor Ndoma-Egbe, the Leader of the Senate, had activated Rule 40 of the Senate Standing Rule to commence the screening of the new CJN.
Sen. Ike Ekeremandu, the Deputy Senate President, cashed in on the proceeding to ask Mohammed some questions.
Ekweremandu’s questions were on the need for special courts, constitutional courts and the alleged dwindling welfare of judges.
Sen. James Manager (PDP-Delta) wanted Mohammed to provide answer to alleged conflicting decisions across the country’s courts.
The senator also wanted Mohammed’s position on current fusion of the offices of Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Juctice.
Similarly, Sen. Adeyeye Olusola (APC-Osun) had asked the incoming CJN whether It was compelling to appoint older justices as CJN.
Responding, Mohammed said the country did not require special courts or constitutional court to administer fair justice.
“I do not support the call for special courts; the challenge of the country’s judicial System is mainly personnel and not the court structure.
“Nigeria has one of the best judicial structures in the world but still requires the right quality of personnel to provide fair adjudication,’’ he said.
According to him, “the structure of our court as presently constituted cannot be said to be responsible for the backlogs of cases across the country but rather should be hinged on prosecutors’’.
“There should be no reason why a case should stay in court for more than three months,’’ he said.
On whether the country should adopt a constitutional court, instead of the current Supreme Court used for the apex court, Mohammed said the status of the courts wwas the same.
“It is a matter of nomenclature; the constitutional court is used in countries colonised by the French while countries that were under the British use the supreme court.
They have equal jurisdiction,’’ he said.
Mohemmed said “the country’s Supreme Court has so far been exemplary and there may be no need to alter the name now,’’ Mohammed.
Commenting on conflicting decisions from courts in recent times, Mohammed said the rise in political litigations had brought pressure on lawyers and the courts.
“I accept that there has been a number of conflicting rulings and judgments by judges.
“These are made possible as a result of interests. Some lawyers and judges are responsible for this and it must be dealt with,’’ he said.
On the fusion of the offices of the AGF and the Minister of Justice, he said the two offices would serve the country best if separated.
On why the country had appointed older Justices of the court as CJN, Mohammed said, however, that the constitution did not compel the President to appoint only older justices.
According to him, “the legal profession is hierarchical and therefore maintains seniorities in both the bench and the bar’’.
“The wisdom, knowledge and maturity required to head the apex court are acquired through a long professional journey and before long you have become old,’’ he said.
Commenting after the voice votes had affirmed Mohammed’s nomination, the Senate President, David Mark, expressed delight at the effort of the judiciary to stabilise the country’s democracy so far.
Mark said the country would undoubtedly benefit from the appointment of Mohammed as the new CJN, saying “the judiciary is an important arm of Government’’.
“We are conscious of the fact that it performs vital role in stabilising our Society and our democracy,’’ Mark said.
Earlier, the Senate allowed the Trade Malpractice (Miscellaneous Offences) Act 2011 (Amendment) Bill 2014 to scale through the first reading.
NAN reports that the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill 2014 also scaled through first reading.
Similarly, the report of the committee on Agriculture and Rural Development on Nigerian Institute of Animal Science Act (Amendment) Bill 2014 was laid at plenary. (NAN)