Concern over election petitions as number of supreme court justices drop to 10
With the final verdicts on election petition cases expected soon, there are concerns over drop in number of Nigerian Supreme court justices, coming short of the court’s full complement of 21 justices as stipulated in Nigeria’s Constitution.
The number had gone down to 11 after the retirement of a justice, Amina Augie, on September 22, 2023, and the death of Justice Chima Nweze on July 31, 2023.
The number will, however, further drop to 10, all-time low, by October 27, when another justice of the court, Musa Dattijo Muhammad, retires.
A statement by the Supreme Court’s Director of Press and Information, Festus Akande, on Sunday, October 22, said that Muhammad will clock the mandatory retirement age of 70 on October 27, adding that a valedictory court session to mark Muhammad’s exit from the bench would be held on Friday, 27 October.
The statement outlined the upcoming event, slated for 10 a.m. on Friday at the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Olukayode Ariwoola will be at the helm, and the customary tribute to Musa Dattijo, as well as the participation of other significant figures in the nation’s justice sector, is expected, as per the announcement.
Akande, while announcing the retirement, noted that Muhammad began his legal career in 1977 when he was called to the Nigerian Bar after obtaining a law degree from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State.
“Justice Musa Dattijo, who hails from Chanchaga Local Government Area of Niger State, was born on Tuesday, 27th October, 1953 in Minna. He attended Native Primary School, Minna, from 1960 to 1966 for his First School Leaving Certificate.
“Between 1967 and 1971, he was at Sheikh Sabbah College (now Sardauna Memorial Secondary School), Kaduna, from where he proceeded to Abdullahi Bayero College, Kano for a Pre-Degree programme which aided his immediate admission into the Faculty of Law at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where he bagged a degree in Law in 1977.
According to him, Muhammad, who was called to the Nigerian Bar on July 2, 1977, sought admission at Warwick University in 1982 for an LLM Degree, which he obtained in 1983 after he had initially secured his first Degree in Law in Nigeria.
Muhammad took the oath of office as Justice of the Supreme Court on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.
“His ascension to the Court of Appeal was more of a reward for hard work, inherent passion for his chosen profession, dedication to duty, and above all, a resolute application of the law in its true letters and words to all cases that came to him.
“He earned a well-deserved elevation to the Court of Appeal on 21st November 1998 from the Niger State Judiciary and served meritoriously at different Divisions,” the statement read.
The CJN had in June disclosed plans for 10 appointments aimed at reaching the complete roster of 21 justices for the court.
Similarly, on Thursday, October 19, the House of Representatives called on the Federal Government to appoint new judges for the Supreme Court to ensure effective justice delivery in the country.
The resolution of the House followed a motion of urgent public importance moved by Patrick Umoh, the lawmaker representing Ikot Ekpene Federal Constituency, Akwa Ibom State.
With Muhammad’s departure, the Supreme Court bench will be left with Olukayode Ariwoola (CJN), Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Inyang Okoro, Uwani Abba-Aji, and Lawal Garba, Helen Ogunwumiju, Ibrahim Saulawa, Adamu Jauro, Tijjani Abubakar, and Emmanuel Agim.
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