The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN has expressed concern over the backlog of pending appeals at the Supreme Court, urging judicial reform to cut down on appeals that get to the apex court.

Insisting that the situation must be holistically addressed, Fagbemi said: “We must begin to develop innovative solutions towards enhancing the working capacity of the Supreme Court, cutting down on the number of appeals that get to the Court, implementing critical judicial reforms, as well as adopting alternative dispute resolution mechanisms”.

He also challenged the National Judicial Council (NJC) to expedite action on the process of appointing more Justices to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

The Supreme Court presently has only 10 Justices against the full complement of 21 as provided by the Constitution.

Although the AGF said he was aware that the process of filling the vacancies for the Justices of the Supreme Court had begun, he asked the NJC to act fast to lessen the burden of work on the 10 remaining Justices.

Fagbemi spoke at the special Supreme Court session to mark the commencement of the 2023/2024 legal year and swearing in of newly appointed Senior Advocates of Nigeria by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.

He said: “I would like to use this opportunity to ask the leadership of the National Judicial Council to fast-track the process of achieving a full complement of the Supreme Court and to also concurrently put in place the process of filling the consequential vacancies that will be occasioned at the Court of Appeal to avoid undue delay and minimize disruptions at that level.” 

The AGF disclosed that the administration of President Bola Tinubu has expressed readiness to implement judicial reforms with the cooperation of the judiciary.

“We, therefore, earnestly await the judiciary to set the ball rolling to enable the other arms play their part in this critical aspect of nation-building” the Justice Minister said.

Meanwhile, Fagbemi has congratulated the 58 senior lawyers on their new status as Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

The conferment of the rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), he said, is not just a recognition of excellence for those conferred but also a motivation for those aspiring to be admitted into the inner bar.

His words: “Your new and enviable status demands that you must be honest and maintain professional standards at all times within and outside the courtroom towards the judex, colleagues, clients, and the public in general.

“You must maintain a very high standard of professional conduct in the discharge of your duties.

“Being a privilege also means that it can be lost or taken away, it is worthy of note that under the new rules once a name is struck off there is no provision for restoration of the name to the roll, therefore, you must continue to sustain the standards and qualities for which you were considered worthy of the rank ab initio.” 

Click here for the full text of the speech.

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