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Nigeria’s Supreme Court Finally Attains Full Complement Of 21 Justices

The Supreme Court on Monday, for the first time in its history, attained its full complement of 21 justices, following the swearing-in of 11 justices recently appointed by President Bola Tinubu.

According to Section 230 (2) (b) of the 1999 constitution, “The Supreme Court of Nigeria shall consist of such number of justices not exceeding 21 as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.”

However, this requirement over the years appeared difficult to meet, leading the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola and others concluding that the apex court was “jinxed” not to meet the requirement.

Before their swearing-in on Monday, the apex court bench consisted of just 10 justices, which was the lowest ever.

Speaking at the swearing-in ceremony which was held at the headquarters of the apex court in Abuja, the CJN remarked that the occasion was unprecedented in the annals of the Nigerian Supreme Court.

 He recalled his speech last year, wherein he lamented that the inability of the Court to meet up the statutory full complement of 21 Justices had lingered on for too long and promised to break the jinx.

According to him, the new justices are coming to join the Supreme Court Bench at a time when the rank had been grossly depleted to an all-time low of 10 justices for a number of reasons, mainly retirement and deaths.

He therefore urged them to put in their best as seasoned judicial officers transiting from the Court of Appeal and had established remarkable acquaintances with judicial oath and roles guiding the conduct of judicial officers.

“Your moral uprightness, integrity and respect for the constitution and other extant laws in operation, must be unwavering and unassailable”, he said.

 He urged the new justices to see themselves as the representatives of God on earth, because “any judgement given at this level can only be upturned in heaven”.

Ariwoola however advised them to be prepared for criticisms or verbal assaults by litigants who have lost cases as Justices of the final Court of the land, where appellants’ expectations are often very high and infectious.

“There is no way you can please human beings, especially litigants. The easiest way to fail in life is by trying to please everyone. The only deity you can fear is the Almighty God.

“Once your judgment is in consonance with what God expects from you, and is also in accordance with the constitution, you should consider yourself the happiest and freest person on earth,” he added.

He reminded them that their elevation to the Supreme Court Bench was in recognition of their astuteness and evident passion for hard work, which is the hallmark of judicial excellence and urged them to sustain it.

The National Judicial Council (NJC) had last December recommended 11 justices of the appellate court to Tinubu for appointment as Supreme Court justices, following their confirmation by the Senate.

The new justices who took the oath of office as Justices of the Supreme Court (JSC) are: Justice Haruna Tsammani, who presided over the five-member panel of the 2023 Presidential Election Petition Court and Justice Stephen Jonah Adah, a member of the panel.

Others are: Justice Jummai Sankey, Justice Chidiebere Nwaoma Uwa, Justice Chioma Egondu Nwosu-Iheme, Justice Moore Aseimo A. Adumein, and Justice Obande Festus Ogbuinya.

Others include: Justice Habeeb Adewale O. Abiru, Justice Jamilu Yammama Tukur, Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar and Justice Mohammed Baba Idris.

Alex Enumah

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