Justice Muhammad Dattijo says non-representation of the South-East and North-Central in the Supreme Court Bench is dangerous to equitable justice delivery in the country.
Dattijo said this during the valedictory court session held in his honour at the Supreme Court to mark his retirement having attained the statutory retirement age of 70 years on Friday.
“It is all about the absolute powers vested in the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the responsible exercise of same.
“That this avoidable depletion has affected and will further affect the court and litigants is stating the obvious”.
He said:”appropriate steps could have been taken to fill the outstanding vacancies in the apex court.
“Why have these steps not been timeously taken?, he asked.
“We are in an election season where the Election Tribunals and appellate courts are inundated with all manner of petitions and appeals.
“The Supreme Court is the final court in the Presidential, Governorship and National Assembly election appeals.
“Yet, there are only 10 justices left to determine these matters.
“It portends great danger for the country’s democracy to have the South-East and North-Central regions not represented on the bench of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
The Niger born jurist, who spent 43 years in the judiciary, noted that with his retirement, Justices on the bench of the apex court have reduced to 10, with two regions of the country not represented.
“To ensure justice and transparency in presidential appeals from the lower court, all geo-political zones are required to participate in the hearing.
“It is therefore dangerous for democracy and equity for two entire regions to be left out in the decisions that will affect the generality of Nigerians”, Datijo warned.
“Although it can be posited that no one expected the sudden passing of Justice Centus Nweze, on July 29, yet, it has been two years and seven months since Sylvanus Ngwuta, another Justice from the South East died and no appointment was made”.
He noted that Justice Ejembi Eko, who also represented the North Central zone and retired on May 23, 2022 has not been replaced either.
“Justice Sidi Bage JSC, now his Royal Highness, the Emir of Lafia, from the North Central, had earlier voluntarily retired. He equally is yet to be replaced” Dattijo stated.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that with the bowing out of Dattijo, only four geo-political regions, the South-West, South-South, North-West and North-East are represented at the Supreme Court.
The South-South and North-East have two serving Justices, while the North-West and South-West are fully represented with three Jurists each.
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