Outgoing Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, on Tuesday proposed 52 amendments to the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to strengthen the judicial process in the country.Among them is a proposal to create a special court to try financial crimes in a bid to hasten the anti-graft war.
The proposals were contained in ‘A Bill for an Act to Alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (5th Alteration) 2012’, which Musdapher presented to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, in Abuja. He said the amendments were part of the reform of the judiciary, which he started on assumption of office in September, 2011.
The CJN explained that his aim was to reposition the judiciary to a level that it would win the confidence of Nigerians in the dispensation of justice. Musdapher said, “When I assumed office in September 2011, public perception and confidence in the Judiciary was generally adjudged to be low.
“There were serious concerns regarding our ability to dispense justice to the satisfaction of the citizenry. “Consequently, in a bid to address these issues, I expressed grave concern regarding the current state of affairs at several fora and communicated a resolve to take corrective measures to reform the Judiciary.”
According to the CJN, one of the amendments seeks to streamline the process for the removal of judicial officers to “ensure a greater degree of fairness”. He also said part of the reform agenda was to speed up the trial of cases in order not to delay justice.
To achieve this, Musdapher proposed to delete “the old Section 295 regarding reference on questions of law.” He told Tambuwal that the section had been identified “as a means to stall the swiftness of the trial process.” Another proposal seeks to alter the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court “by providing that appeals from the Court of Appeal on Interlocutory decisions and other matters shall only be by leave of the Supreme Court.”
In addition, the CJN wants the alteration the composition of the National Judicial Council and the Federal Judicial Service Commission in order to “ensure greater balance.” In another amendment proposal, Musdapher sought the leave of the House to expand the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court “to include an Advisory Jurisdiction on application by the President or a governor on questions of law or fact that are of such importance that it is expedient to obtain an opinion of the Supreme Court on it.”
Musdapher also said procedural rules of courts would be reviewed to speed up justice rather than being an impediment to justice. He said, “Procedural Rules are also being looked into with a view to achieving some uniformity in the applicable Rules of the Federal High Courts and State High Courts as well as Appellate Courts in order to ensure speedy dispensation of justice.
“These rules are designed initially to aid litigants in ensuring justice and fair play.”