In a pivotal moment for Nigeria’s legal landscape, the Supreme Court braces for an unprecedented challenge as it begins hearing appeals contesting the 2023 presidential election outcome. By Friday, the esteemed bench will comprise only 10 justices, following the retirement of Justice Musa Dattijo, who reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 on October 27, as reported by Ikechukwu Nnochiri from Abuja.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, will oversee a valedictory session in honor of Justice Dattijo on Friday, according to a statement released by the court’s Director of Press and Information, Dr. Akande Aweneri Festus.
This decline in the court’s strength began in 2020 when President Muhammadu Buhari appointed eight new justices, raising hopes of achieving the constitutionally mandated 21-justice threshold. However, this hope was shattered with the untimely demise of Justice Sylvester Ngwuta in March 2021, and subsequent retirements and resignations, leaving only 13 justices on the bench.
Despite calls from stakeholders for the urgent appointment of new justices, the bench continues to dwindle. Notably, the departure of Justice Ariwoola, slated for August 22, 2024, intensifies concerns about the court’s capacity to handle its workload.
The National Judicial Council, in accordance with the Constitution, holds the authority to nominate and recommend justices for appointment to President Bola Tinubu. However, with the current diminished bench and the constitutional mandate requiring panels of 5 or 7 justices, the court faces a daunting challenge in managing the pending appeals.
Justice Dattijo, a jurist from Chanchaga Local Government Area of Niger State, born on October 27, 1953, has been an integral part of the Supreme Court since his appointment on July 10, 2012. As the court navigates this crisis, the nation watches closely, apprehensive about the impact on the justice system and the fate of crucial legal decisions hanging in the balance. Stay tuned to VOTP News for further updates on this developing story.