Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi who retired after 26 years on the bench of the Court of Appeal, Jos Division, on Tuesday, advocated for the decentralization of the Supreme Court to speed up the dispensation of justice in the country as this would enable assigned justices in each geopolitical zone to handle cases without congesting the court in Abuja
Speaking to journalists at his residence in Abuja, he argued that the judges cannot cope with the volumes of court cases assigned to them.
He said, “The Supreme Court has a number of cases but my question is why is the Supreme Court not decentralized 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 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.
Oniyangi observed that low funding of the judiciary and poor infrastructure, among other factors, were responsible for delayed justice in the country.
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 specialized courts.
He noted, “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 sanitizing 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.”