New Telegraph

Supreme Court judges drop to 13 as another one retires

The number of Nigeria’s Supreme Court judges has dropped to 13, widely coming short of the court’s full complement of 21 justices as stipulated in the Constitution, by eight.

The number had spiralled down from 20 that it was in November 2020, less than two years ago, to 14 in June this year, with the sudden resignation of the immediate-past Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad.

It has now further dropped to 13, as Abdu Aboki, who joined the bench of the Supreme Court less than two years ago in November 2020, retires.

A statement by the Supreme Court’s Director of Press and Information, Festus Akande, on Sunday, said Aboki clocked the mandatory retirement age of 70 on August 5.

It also said a valedictory court session to mark Aboki’s retirement from the bench, which could not immediately hold after his retirement more than a month ago, would now hold on Thursday,  September 15.

The valedictory ceremony, according to the statement, could not hold then “due to the annual vacation of the court.”

The event, now scheduled to hold at 10 a.m.on Thursday at the Supreme Court, will be presided by the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Olukayode Ariwoola, the statement added.

It noted that Aboki had “a rather short period of one year and eight months on the apex court’s bench.”

The number of justices after Sanusi’s exit had, in no time, dropped to its all-time low of 12 with the retirement of Paul Galumje in April 2020. This left the remaining judges on the bench groaning about the heavy workload marked by insufficient personnel to man the bench.

In November 2020, the downward trend was arrested, as eight justices elevated from the Court of Appeal bench, among whom was Aboki, were sworn in, drastically jerking up the number of Supreme Court judges to an unprecedented 20.

But since then, seven justices have exited the Supreme Court bench without replacement – either through death, retirement or resignation – plunging the number back to 13 within less than two years.

This drastic drop within the relatively short period began with the death of Sylvester Ngwuta about three weeks to his retirement in March 2021.

About two weeks after Ngwuta’s death, Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, who was then the second-most senior judge of the Supreme Court, also retired on attaining 70 in March 2021.

In quick succession, Samuel Oseji, died in September 2021, aged 67, less than a year after his appointment to the Supreme Court’s bench.

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