The Chief Justice of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho on Monday in Abuja, pledged to ensure timely access to justice for all Nigerians.

Tsoho made the assertion at the Special Court Session held to ceremonially mark the beginning of the court’s 2022/2023 legal year.

“In the new legal year, my mind is set on the primary responsibility of this court, which is to provide access to justice as far as possible.

“Also, I am more resolute than ever, to keep my promise of providing innovative methods of improving the administration of justice.”

The chief judge said that as part of efforts to enhance the smooth administration of justice, the court would soon get 15 additional judges.

” I am pleased to state that with the approval of the National Judicial Council, and the Federal Judicial Service Commission. the process of appointing 15 more judges for the court has reached on advanced stage.

” For the first time in the history of the court, we engaged an independent consultant to conduct computer based test for the applicants.

“This was intended to ensure transparency so that only the most qualified are shortlisted and forwarded to the Federal Judicial Service Commission for further screening.

He expressed optimism that the process would soon be concluded.

“It is hoped that the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola will again, soon grant approval to commence the process for further appointment of nine more judges.

“This is in order to stem the fast depleting rank of judges in the court. “

He said that the court had been conferred with additional jurisdiction by the Electoral Act, 2022.

“By virtue of Sections 29 (5) and 84 (14) of the Act, exclusive jurisdiction is foisted on the Federal High Court in hearing and determination of pre-election complaints .

“Linked to that jurisdiction is Section 285 (10) of the 1999 Constitution which provides that such pre-election cases must be concluded within 180 days from the date of filing the suit.

“This is notwithstanding the judges’ existing high volume dockets that present enormous challenges and it is necessary to place on record that the Electoral Act 2022 was enacted without consultation with the court.”
Justice Tsoho said it was in response to the enormous and time-bound responsibility that he constituted a Special Task Force for the swift disposal of such pre-election cases.

He expressed appreciation to all the judges that were drafted into the task force to handle the cases saying they had achieved a feat.

He expressed confidence that the court would be better equipped and more prepared to handle such challenges in the next pre-election season.

He also thanked the CJN for supporting the initiative and approving an emergency fund to support the court in it’s assignment.

The chief judge said that on account of the support, out of the total of 1,838 pre-election cases were filed, 1,285 were disposes of leaving a total of 556 cases pending.

Speaking on the legal year just ended, Justice Tsoho said that it officially closed in July 2021 with a total of 131, 821 cases pending.

“Within that legal year, a total of 17, 677 cases were filed while the total number of cases disposed of was 13, 906.

“When this is added to the total number of cases carried over from the previous year which is 131, 821, we have a total of 135, 592 cases pending at the end of the legal year.

“This comprises of 41, 788 civil cases, 31, 832 criminal cases, 39, 799 motions and 22, 173 fundamental rights enforcement applications pending at the end of the legal year.”

Speaking on behalf of the body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, (SANs), Mr Adegboyega Awomolo, (SAN) called for the establishment of a National Constitutional Court of Nigeria.

Awomolo said this was necessary because normal cases had to suffer adjournments when judges were drafted into the special task force on pre-election matters.

” With all humility, we have reached a stage when very urgently, the parliament, judiciary and stakeholders in the administration of justice should consider establishment of National Constitutional Court of Nigeria.

“The constitutional court is one that will handle all constitutional, political and election matters, it will be a federal court, of the status of a high court with divisions in all the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

“The court will have unlimited jurisdiction to determine all causes relating or connected with interpretation of the constitution and enforcement of fundamental rights of the citizens.

“It will also handle determination as to whether any person has been lawfully elected into any office from the president to the state governors and members of all the legislative houses.”

He added that the court would be like the National Industrial Court of Nigeria that exercises jurisdiction on matters related to employment and other industrial related matters.

“All the decisions of the court will be appellable to the Court of Appeal and all appeals end at the Court of Appeal.

*There will no longer be the need to take away about 500 judges from their normal court responsibilities to sit on Election Tribunals all over the country,” he said.

Also speaking, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, represented by the Solicitor -General, Mrs Beatrice Jedi-Agba, commended the commitment of the judges to disposing of pre-election cases.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that activities for the 2022/2023 legal year of the court will continue on Tuesday with the 38th edition of the annual judges conference. (NAN)