The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Tuesday lamented the heavy workload Justices of the Supreme Court were grappling with.
As he said in a statement in September last year, Justice Onnoghen reiterated on Tuesday that the diary for scheduled cases of the apex court was already full for the next two years.
The CJN, who spoke at the Main Court of the Supreme Court during the swearing-in of Justice Uwani Abba-Aji as a justice of the apex court, said the state of the diary of the court was an indication there was a lot of work for the justices to do.
He said, “Sometime in September, 2018, I issued a statement to the effect that the Supreme Court diary is full with appeals set down for hearing up to the year 2021.
“Accordingly, I explained the import of the warning to mean that any matter that is assigned a date must be heard and determined one way or the other on that date.
“For appeals that may be discovered to have defects, I advised counsel to take necessary steps to amend such defects before the due hearing date.”
Abba-Aji, who hails from Yobe State, was the presiding justice of the Kaduna Division of Court of Appeal until President Muhammadu Buhari approved his elevation to the apex court’s bench last year.
She was said to have served for a period of 14 years on the Court of Appeal’s bench.
In the wake of the raid of the houses of some judges by the operatives of the Department of State Service in October 2016, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, requested the National Judicial Council to suspend the judges and others including Abba-Aji, pending the conclusion of corruption investigations against them.
But after months without any progress in the said investigations or any charge preferred against her and some of the judges, the NJC recalled her and those without any pending cases.
Congratulating Justice Abba-Aji on her elevation on Tuesday, Justice Onnoghen said, “You have journeyed through thick and thin to get here.
“I personally was part of the panel that earlier interviewed you for elevation to this court.
“You have worked very hard to earn elevation to the Supreme Court, but as you must know already, the reward for hard work is even more hard work.”
The number of justices of the apex court dropped from 17 to 16 with the retirement of Justice Clara Bata Ogunbiyi in February, 2018.
With Abba-Aji’s inauguration on Tuesday, the number of the justices is back to 17 even though the CJN said that “within the year, there will be at least one more retirement.”
The CJN added, “Therefore, your elevation to the bench of Nigeria’s apex court is timely and positive.
“Your work ethic and integrity are what got you here and I urge you to do even more to leave your footprints on the sands of time in this court.”