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Nigeria’s Supreme Court Bench Depletes Further As Hearing In Presidential, Guber Appeals Starts Monday

A valedictory service will be held on October 27 to mark Justice Dattijo’s retirement.

With hearings in the presidential and governorship elections’ appeals starting on Monday, there’s a growing concern over the potential depletion of the Supreme Court bench, with the approaching retirement of Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad, on Friday, October 27, after attaining the age of 70 years.

This development is expected to further deplete the bench from 11 to 10 justices.

However, while the justices of the Supreme Court might have been overburdened as a result of increasing cases, especially political matters, what has remained worrisome was whether they would not buckle under the heavy workload, flowing from the 2023 general election.

A few weeks ago, the bench was reduced from 12 to 11, after Justice Amina Augie, retired from service upon attaining the compulsory retirement age of 70 years.

With Dattijo Muhammad also due to go on Friday, the bench now has only 10justices to its credit.

A statement by the Director, Press and Information, Supreme Court of Nigeria, stated that a valedictory court session to mark his retirement from the Supreme Court Bench had been slated for October 27, 2023 at the Main Courtroom of the Supreme Court of Nigeria at 10:00am.

“The Special Court Session is to be presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, who will customarily, pay tribute to Justice Musa Dattijo alongside other major stakeholders in the nation’s justice sector,” the statement added.

Dattijo, who hailed from Chanchaga Local Government Area of Niger State, was born on October 27, 1953, in Minna. He attended Native Primary School, Minna from 1960 to 1966 for his First School Leaving Certificate.

Between 1967 and 1971, he was at Sheikh Sabbah College (now Sardauna Memorial Secondary School) Kaduna, from where he proceeded to Abdullahi Bayero College, Kano for a Pre-Degree programme, which aided his immediate admission into the Faculty of Law at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he bagged a degree in Law in 1977.

He was called to the Nigerian Bar on July 2, 1977. Not satisfied with only a first Degree in Law, Muhammad sought admission at Warwick University in 1982 for an LLM Degree, which he obtained in 1983. He took the oath of office as Justice of the Supreme Court on Tuesday July 10, 2012.

The statement remarked that Justice Muhammad’s “ascension to the Court of Appeal was more of a reward for hard work, inherent passion for his chosen profession, dedication to duty, and above all, a resolute application of the law in its true letters and words to all cases that came to him.

“He earned a well-deserved elevation to the Court of Appeal on November 21, 1998, from the Niger State Judiciary, and served meritoriously at different Divisions. With the retirement of Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad, the Supreme Court of Nigeria is now left with 10 Justices.”

Meanwhile, hearing in three appeals challenging the affirmation of the election of President Bola Tinubu, commences on Monday, October 23.

The appeals include that of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and his presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; Labour Party (LP) and its presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi and that of the Allied People’s Movement (APM).

The seven-man panel expected to be constituted from among the 10 justices have less than 30 days to hear and deliver judgment in the three separate appeals.

Although the law stipulates 60 days for the apex court to hear and determine an appeal in an election matter, it should be stated that over 30 days had gone by since September 18 that the Notice of Appeal was lodged.

Besides, the apex court is expected to constitute several panels to hear governorship appeals that are emanating from the lower court as well as pre-election appeals from the off-season circle election.

Alex Enumah in Abuja

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