States Courts of Appeal will Only Worsen Delays in Adjudicatory System
By Bashiru Ibrahim, Esq.
Being text of a memoranum submitted to the North-West Zone National Assembly Constitutional Review Committee Sitting on the 2nd and 3rd of June, 2021 at Bristol Hotel, Kano.
Below is my opinion on some areas of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) that need to be amended.
STATES’ COURT OF APPEAL
The proposed states’ Court of appeal to which appeal shall lie from decisions of state High Court before appealing to the Federal Court of Appeal and then Supreme Court should be discountenanced with. The creation of the Sates’ Court of Appeal will only put a stamp to the delay in the adjudicatory system. Already cases take years from Court to Court, appeal upon appeal before final determination by the apex Court. Creating another ladder in the judicial hierarchy will only cause more and more delay.
Rather, the number of justices of the court of Appeal and Supreme Court should be increased for timely disposal of appeals.
MAKING IST A SUPERIOR COURT OF RECORD
The Investment and Securities Tribunal (IST) established under section 274 of the Investment and Securities Act, 2007(ISA) is a special Tribunal to hear and determine capital market related disputes expeditiously. There has however been some “jurisdictional conflict” between IST under the ISA and the Federal High Court under Section 251 of the Constitution.
Section 6(5) of the Constitution should therefore be amended to include IST as a superior court with its exclusive jurisdiction defined in the Constitution.
CREATION OF SPECIAL COURT FOR MARITIME DISPUTES
Maritime disputes, just like capital market disputes also a special court because of the peculiar nature of the sector which also have to do with foreigners at times.
Section 6(5) of the Constitution should therefore be amended to create a special court for maritime disputes as a superior court with its exclusive jurisdiction defined.
ABOLITION OF REQUIREMENT OF LEAVE TO APPEAL
Till date there has not been a water-tight classification or guidelines for determining grounds of law, facts and mixed law and facts. Meritorious appeals have otherwise been lost to this technical point. All appeals should be as of right and there should be no requirement of leave on any ground. The Constitution should be amended accordingly.
FILING FEES IN OUR COURTS
The amount charged as filing fees in some Courts is exorbitant. Many of the populace may not be able to afford these fees thereby posing a threat to access to justice. The judiciary should not be a revenue generation venture.
There should therefore be a proviso in the sections of the Constitution (such as 236, 248, 254, 259, etc) empowering heads of courts to make Rules for their courts, that filing fees should be liberal, minimal and not be excessive and should be fixed after due consultation with the Nigerian Bar Association.
PRE-REQUISITE FOR APPOINTMENTS IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION
To ensure competence in the judiciary and the legal profession, in addition to the minimum age requirement at the bar for appointment of Judges of Superior Courts and Attorneys General, such persons should have been in active practice for 70% of those minimum years. For instance, in the case of a Judge of a High Court with 10 years’ post call requirement, such person must have been in active practice for a minimum of 7 years.
FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
For long, efforts have been made for the financial independence of the local governments but much is still desired.
Section 7 of the Constitution should be amended to establish a Ministry for local government or such similar body in each state of the Federation. The Ministry or body should not be under the control of the State Governments but should be answerable to the local governments. The Chairmen of Local Governments should be the members of this Ministry or body and should elect the leadership from amongst them. The “State Joint Local Government Account” established under section 162(6) of the Constitution and other similar accounts and funds should be managed and controlled by the Ministry or body.
CREATION OF MORE STATES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
There have been agitations for the creating of more states and local governments in some quotas. To prevent floodgate of establishing more states and local governments, Section 8 of the Constitution should be amended to include the following as conditions for the creation of more states or local governments:
Reasonability of the size of the state or local government out of which an additional state or local government is to be created vis-à-vis other states of the federation.
Reasonability of the population of the state or local government out of which an additional state or local government is to be created vis-à-vis other states of the federation..
LAND USE ACT
Under the proviso to section 315(5) of the Constitution, the Act can only be amended in accordance with section 9(2) of the Constitution. In respect of this Act, I suggest that:
- the grounds of revocation such as failure to pay rent or make improvements within stipulated time should be relaxed. Section 28 of the Act should be amended accordingly.
- the taxes on land(ground rent, rack rent, assignment percentage, etc) are too much and should be reduced;
- to decongest the High Courts, Upper Sharia Courts/Upper Area Courts should have jurisdiction over lands in urban areas. Sections 39, 40 and 41 of the Act should be amended accordingly.
REMUNERATION OF POLITICIANS
To reduce the crises associated with elections and the lust for political offices including legislative offices, the salaries and allowances of political office holders, including legislative office holders should be similar to that of civil servants of various grades. The crisis of minimum wage will also be history since the salaries of civil servants will be similar to that of the politicians.
We thank the National Assembly in its effort to put into operation the views of the masses.
Bashiru Ibrahim, Esq. (07038805851, 08095835362) [email protected]
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