Over 39,526 cases pending in Appeal Court - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Monday, September 25, 2023

Over 39,526 cases pending in Appeal Court

President of the Court of Appeal, PCA, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, has disclosed that over 39, 526 appeals are currently pending before the court.

Justice Dongban-Mensem noted that bulk of the cases, which were filed in 20 Divisions of the Court, bordered on electoral disputes.

"The cost and negative effect of electoral litigation is becoming worrisome. It is becoming economically alarming that the entire Nigerian Judicial System is inundated with electoral litigation and adjudication almost all year round," the PCA bemoaned. 

She spoke at a special court session that the appellate court held to mark the commencement of its 2023/2024 legal year. 

According to the PCA, "It is a matter of concern that a large number of Judges of the trial Court have been engaged for six months in the exclusive management of electoral cases. 

"The implication is that commercial matters are tied down in our Courts. Industrial disputes and land matters which when determine in good time could create jobs and release cash flow into the economy are tied down in Court Registries.

 "I call on statisticians to calculate, tabulate and publish the economic cost of these details and the benefits we loose in terms of time. Democracy is beautiful, it is the way to go. 

"However, Politicians should in the interest of our national economic development imbibe the spirit of good sportsmanship. 

"They should pay more attention to internal democracy and exercise the spirit of loyalty to a cause which necessarily entail letting go in the interest of discipline and internal harmony. 

"All elections need not end up in Court. We must all remember that we hold the balance between chaos and order. 

"We must therefore maintain our ongoing collaboration in fostering a stronger democratic foundation for our nation in discharging our Constitutional role for a more perfect union."
Justice Dongban-Mensem disclosed that after the 2023 general elections, 98 panels were constituted across the various tribunals tasked with the responsibility to handle 1, 209 petitions that were filed.

Among these petitions, she said five were directed at the PEPC, 147 for the Senatorial election, 417 for the House of Representatives, 557 associated with the State Houses of Assembly, while 83 were on gubernatorial elections.

"Twenty-eight states participated in the Governorship elections, and petitions were filed in 24 states. 

"Notably, four states (Kwara, Niger, Yobe, and Katsina) had no Governorship Election petitions filed. 

"There will be off cycle Governorship Elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi States respectively, scheduled for 11th November, 2023. 

"We have already received a number of pre-election appeals related to the conduct of political party primaries in these States and we are working assiduously to ensure that they are promptly disposed of," the PCA stated.

She further disclosed that whereas a total of 7,295 appeals and 3,665 Motions were filed before the court within the 2022/2023 legal year, 3,765 of them were determined while 5,617 motions were disposed of. 

"While 1,030 of these Appeals were dismissed and 10,381 were allowed. The Court still has a total of 39,526 Appeals pending as at 31st of August, 2023. 

"This is an increase from 34,037 pending in the Court in the 2021/2022 Legal Year.  

"A total of 429 judgments and rulings were delivered through the virtual platform. 

"Similarly, Judges of Election Petition Tribunals (EPT) handling off-season EPT cases utilized the opportunity for virtual sessions and delivered a total of 21 Judgments. 

"In the ongoing EPT cycle, several rulings and a varying number of Motion Exparte proceedings were conducted virtually,"Justice Dongban-Mensem added, even as she urged the Federal Government to urgently improve the welfare of judicial officers in the country. 

Meanwhile, in his remarks, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, said the President Bola Tinubu-led administration had already commenced the process that would lead to upward review of remuneration of judicial officers. 

The AGF further gave the assurance that more Judges would be appointed so as to lessen the burden on the judiciary.

On its part, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, BOSAN, in its speech that was read by Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, urged justices of the court to remain above board and not perverse justice no matter the temptation that come their way.

"It is to the judiciary that we owe the continued survival of this nation. Therefore, the Judges and Justices must not lose themselves. Nothing must happen to make the judiciary to lose itself. We must not despair. Temptations are rife and it is not like some Judges have not made fallen, but majority are still standing upright. 

"Those that criticise the judiciary, you are at liberty to do so, but try to understand the difficulties they have to contend with. 

"Whatever misgivings we have, we should not resort to desperate measures. Those that have taken up arms, please bring down your arms. We must learn to forgive. Unless we do so, we are doomed.

"The judiciary is not a perfect institution, it is a human institution. We can correct it, not by condemnation," Agabi, SAN, pleaded.

More so, the senior lawyer, urged Judges to refrain from imposing what he termed as impossible bail conditions on defendants that are on trial.

"If you are going to impose such conditions, then, there is no bail," he argued.

Some of the dignitaries at the event included the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Nyesom Wike, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, former CJNs, Dahiru Musdapher and Walter Onnoghen, among others.

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