A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN and ministerial nominee, Mr. Festus Keyamo, says the Supreme Court should be unbundled for effective administration and dispensation of justice in the country.
Mr. Keyamo, while speaking when he appeared for screening as a ministerial nominee by the senate, said that the apex court as presently constituted, is frustrating.
He said if assigned the portfolio of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, he would unbundle the apex court into six regional divisions for speedy consideration and dispensation of Justice.
The SAN also blamed the Police and Magistrates for prison congestion by allegedly not adhering to the provisions of Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
In his submission while responding to questions by senators, Mr. Keyamo lamented that the case diary of the Supreme Court as at now, was filled up to 2022 which according to him, would not allow it to entertain any new case apart from political and constitutional ones till after 2022.
He said: “If I am AGF, I have the idea I call the 3 Ds that will be at the heart of judicial reforms: decongestion of supreme court, decongestion of prisons and decongestion of cases lists in courts.
“Nigerian supreme court is the busiest in the world. My first task will be to unbundle the supreme court; it is the busiest in the world and that is not acceptable. Some of the cases that go there are frivolous. This country is big enough to have six regional courts.
Clear cut Solutions
He said the Justice sector in Nigeria was bedeviled with so many problems requiring three clear cut solutions which are decongestion or unbundling of the Supreme Court , decongestion of Prisons and decongestion of courts for facilitation of speedy trials and dispensation of Justice.
he explained that for the unbundling of the Supreme court, six regional Supreme Courts need to be created to handle civil and criminal cases which had passed through the magistrate, High and Appeal Courts within their zones.
“If this is done , the required speedy consideration and dispensation of Justice will be facilitated across the six zones because it is scandalous for mere case on physical assaults between two individuals to move from Magistrates either through appeals or objections from affected counsels to high court , Appeal Court and Supreme Court at the federal level.
“Except for political and constitutional cases , cases such as physical assaults, theft and petty others , supposed not to be allowed to progress to Supreme Court at the Centre in giving room for the 21 Justices there to attend to more national concerned cases.
“The problem at hand now with the centralization of the Supreme court which has only 21 Justices , is that of Justice delayed, which invariably translate into Justice denied as a result of cases spending 10 to 15 years not to talk of motion for leave of appeal into the apex court , pending for 5 years,” Keyamo explained.
Police and Magistrate
He however blamed the problem of prison congestion on the Police and Magistrates across the 36 States of the federation.
According to him, provisions meant for tackling the problem as provided for, by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act passed by the 7th National Assembly and assented to, by former President Goodluck Jonathan, are not been adhered to by both the Police and the Magistrates.
The provision he explained , constitutionally empowers the Magistrates to go round Police cells from time to time , for profiling of offences of suspects in their custodies with a view to freeing those with minor offences who often ended up in prison as awaiting trial inmates.
“Every Police station should open itself to the nearest magistrate courts for inspection; same with the DPOs. But they are not complying with those provisions of the Administration of criminal justice act.
“Magistrates should be given the powers to grant bail even in matters involving murder when there is no evidence at the early stage. We should amend the law to make the powers of the attorney general and DPP subject to judicial review. It is subject to abuse when people accused of abuse are freed,” he explained.