The Senate on Tuesday took a unanimous decision when it confirmed the nomination of Justice Mahmud Mohammed as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
The confirmation was in line with President Goodluck Jonathan’s letter to the parliament requesting Mohammed’s appointment to be approved to replace outgoing Justice Aloma Muhktar. The screening started ealier when Sen. Victor Ndoma-Egbe activated the Rule 40 of the Senate standing rule to commence the screening of the CJN.
Sen. Ike Ekeremandu, the Deputy Senate President, cashed in on the proceeding to ask Mohammed some questions. His questions were on the need for special court’s constutitional and the alleged welfare of judges.
Sen. James Manager (PDP-Delta) wanted Mohammed to provide answer to alleged conflicting decisions across the country’s courts.
The senator also wanted Mohammed’s position on current fusion of the offices of Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Juctice.
Similarly, Sen. Adeyeye Olusola (APC-Osun) had asked the incoming CJN whether It was compelling to appoint older justices as CJN.
Responding, Mohammed said the country did not require special courts or constitutional court to administer fair justice.
That he put in his own words in this way:
“I do not support the call for special courts; the challenge of the country’s judicial System is mainly personnel and not the court structure.
Nigeria has one of the best judicial structures in the world but still requires the right quality of personnel to provide fair adjudication,’’
He went further to add, “the structure of our court as presently constituted cannot be said to be responsible for the backlogs of cases across the country but rather should be hinged on prosecutors’’.
“There should be no reason why a case should stay in court for more than three months,’’
On whether the country should adopt a constitutional court, instead of the current Supreme Court used for the apex court, Mohammed said the status of the courts was the same.
“It is a matter of nomenclature; the constitutional court is used in countries colonized by the French while countries that were under the British use the supreme court. – They have equal jurisdiction” he stressed.
Mohemmed said “the country’s Supreme Court has so far been exemplary and there may be no need to alter the name now,’’
Commenting on conflicting decisions from courts in recent times, Mohammed said the rise in political litigations had brought pressure on lawyers and the courts.”
“I accept that there has been a number of conflicting rulings and judgments by judges. These are made possible as a result of interests. Some lawyers and judges are responsible for this and it must be dealt with,’’ he said.
On the fusion of the offices of the AGF and the Minister of Justice, that he said -the offices would serve the country better if they are on their own.
Again on why the country had appointed older Justices of the court as CJN, Mohammed said, however, that the constitution did not compel the President to appoint only older justices.
Making it clear that, “the legal profession is hierarchical and therefore maintains seniority in both the bench and the bar’’.”The wisdom, knowledge and maturity required to head the apex court are acquired through a long professional journey and before long you have become old,’’ he said.
Commenting after the voice votes had affirmed Mohammed’s nomination, the Senate President, David Mark, expressed delight at the effort of the judiciary to stabilize the country’s democracy so far.
Mark said the country would undoubtedly benefit from the appointment of Mohammed as the new CJN, boldly stating that “the judiciary is an important arm of Government, and we are conscious of the fact that it performs vital role in stabilizing our Society and our democracy,’’