The Supreme Court is, for the first time in history, set to attain its full complement of 21 justices following the recommendation of 11 justices to President Bola Tinubu for appointment.
Among those recommended by the National Judicial Council (NJC) are two justices who sat on the 2023 Presidential Election Petition Court, Justice Haruna Tsammani and Justice Stephen Adah.
A statement from NJC said the recommended justices had emerged successful from the council’s interview committee.
Twenty-two justices were initially shortlisted to fill vacant positions on the bench of the apex court, which recently reduced to 10 justices, its lowest ever.
The last time the court got close to achieving its full complement was in 2020, when eight justices were elevated from the Court of Appeal to join 12 other justices on the bench of the apex court. However, owing to retirements and deaths, the bench in the last three years continued to experience depletion, raising serious concerns among litigants and Nigerians, in general.
The statement signed by NJC’s Director of Information, Mr Soji Oye, listed the other recommended justices as Justice Jummai Sankey, Justice Chidiebere Uwa, Justice Chioma Nwosu-Iheme, Justice Moore Adumein, and Justice Obande Ogbuinya.
Others were Justice Habeeb Abiru, Justice Jamilu Tukur, Justice Abubakar Umar, and Justice Mohammed Idris.
Meanwhile, NJC, which is headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, also recommended Justice Mohammed Ramat for appointment as Justice of the Court of Appeal.
In addition, Justice Joel Agya and Justice Umar Abubakar were recommended for appointment as Chief Judges of Taraba and Kebbi states, respectively.
Equally recommended by NJC were Kadi Sadiq Mukhtar as Grand Kadi, Sharia Court of Appeal, Kebbi State; Justice A. O. Femi-Segun, as President, Customary Court of Appeal, Ogun State; Justice Alfred Yakubu, President Customary Court of Appeal, Taraba State; and Justice Tajudeen Abdulganiyu, Customary Court of Appeal, Oyo State.
NJC also recommended the appointment of 26 lawyers for appointment as judicial officers across the federation.
NJC said in its statement, “All recommended candidates to the Supreme Court Bench would be sworn-in after the approval of their recommendation by President Bola Tinubu, and the subsequent confirmation of their appointment by the senate.
“The various heads of court recommended would also be sworn-in upon the approval of their appointment by their various state governors and subsequent confirmation of same by their respective State Houses of Assembly.”
Recall that the CJN had at a special court session to mark the opening of the 2023/2024 new legal year vowed to break the jinx over the realisation of the composition of 21 justices on the bench of the Supreme Court.
Ariwoola had assured that he would do everything in his power to ensure that the apex court attained its full complement of 21 justices before his retirement next year.
Currently, there are just 10 justices on the bench of the Supreme Court, the lowest in the history of the court.
Ariwoola disclosed, “As soon as I assumed office on June 27, 2022, I immediately got down to work on this urgent and immediate need in particular.”
He added, “Though we have not gotten them on board yet, I can convincingly assure the litigant public that within a very short while, the Supreme Court of Nigeria will, for the very first time in its history, get the constitutionally-prescribed full complement of 21 Justices.
“That is one of the legacies I have been working assiduously to leave behind as it now seems that the court has been somewhat ‘jinxed’ from meeting its constitutional requirement since that piece of legislation was enacted several years ago.”
The issue of appointment to fill vacant positions at the apex court had been on the front burner of national discourse for some time now.