Abuja—The increasing number of pre and post-election cases is consuming the largest chunk of the time available to courts, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Olukayode Ariwoola has lamented.
Ariwoola said the development did not only confirm the belief that Nigeria ranks among the most litigious nations on earth, but it has exposed the Judiciary to constant scrutiny.
He, however, said that in spite of the pressure on courts, judges/justices must “redouble’ their efforts to meet the expectations of litigants.
The CJN called for “less litigation” and the embrace of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms by Nigerians to lessen the pressure on judges/justices.
The Nation newspaper reports that Ariwoola spoke during oath administration on nine new Justices of the Court of Appeal in Abuja yesterday.
The Appeal Court now has 71 justices with the inauguration of the nine.
According to the CJN: “This ceremony is an indication of the times that we are currently in.
“Several novel crimes are being committed in the country that have now made litigations steadily rise.
‘Political cases, especially, are taking a monumental toll on our dockets. Indeed, the times we are in are not pleasant, to say the least.
“No court in the land is spared of this. We are constantly on our toes and the dockets are ever-rising in response to the challenges of the time.
“This underscores the undisputed fact that Nigeria continuously ranks among the most litigious countries in the world.
“I strongly believe it is high time we began to imbibe the culture of less litigation and more of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms so that our courts can be freed of unnecessary burden and depletion of both human and material resources.”
Ariwoola advised the new justices to remain committed to the ethics of their profession by not betraying their oath of office.
He told them that as appeal court justices, they must be cautious in handling high-profile cases that would be brought before them.
Such cases, according to him, will come with “juicy and irresistible gifts” which they must avoid in order not to soil their reputation and that of the judiciary.
His words: “We are not here for long speeches but simply to realign your minds with what is expected of you at this very high and enviable level of adjudication.
“Many high profile cases would definitely come to you on appeal, and they may likely come in some juicy and irresistible gifts that are often intended to dent your reputation and integrity.
“I admonish your lordships to flee from such disguised temptations because your reputation and integrity matter much and count enormously in your rise to honour and fame in life.
“You should endeavour to always hold your heads high by auditing your conduct on a regular basis in order not to fall on the wrong side of the law.
“I have said it severally that in life, gifts and wealth that are not worked for, which are by extension, undeserving, are always destructive and calamitous in nature.
“I pray that your Lordships don’t fall into such snare in the course of your ascension to the pinnacle of your career.
“You must, against all odds, conduct your affairs within the ambit of the law and the oath that has just been administered to you.
“The level of public scrutiny of your conduct will, henceforth, assume astronomical dimension because you have willingly taken up an appointment that will strategically place you perennially in the eye of the storm.
“The tempo and rate of public assessment of your conduct and disposition have also instantaneously assumed an unprecedented spike from this moment.
“You must redouble your effort and dialogue properly with your conscience in order not to fall out of the grace of the Almighty God and the Nigerian people who are curiously looking up to you.
“It takes nothing to join the crowd, but it takes a lot to stand alone with good conscience.”
Ariwoola noted that despite the volume of work before them, the onus was on them “to fasten your belt and roll up your sleeves to face the challenges head-on.
“You must redouble your pace to catch up with the expectations of the litigants.
“As judicial officers, you have a divine mandate that you must discharge with unveiled honesty and sincerity.
“You must give a good account of yourselves to justify your elevation to the Court of Appeal so that you can subsequently earn an elevation to the Supreme Court to actualise your dreams further.”