Desmond Mgboh, Kano
In Nigeria’s judiciary system, the Court of Appeal is second in the hierarchy. It is next to the Supreme Court, the court of final adjudication.
On Monday, February 10, 2020, Kano State recorded a landmark, as it became a host to the 19th division of the Court of Appeal. The event attracted the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa, Justices of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the Chief Judge of Jigawa State. Others included governors of Kano and Jigawa states, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and Ahmed Badaru Abubakar and Speaker, Kano State House of Assembly.
Chief Judge of the state, Justice Nura Sagir, said the establishment of court has been long overdue, recalling that most of the cases before the Kaduna Division of the court were cases that emanated from Kano State.
He maintained that the establishment of the court would reduce the burden of the long distance of travel and the cost of litigation at the appellate court, especially among the less privileged ones who find it very tasking to cope with all the expenses involved in a protracted litigation.
He recalled that the president of the court had pledged, two years ago, to establish the court in the state: “By this inauguration exercise, she has delivered on her promise.” He appealed for the setting up of an additional panel, given the large number of cases expected to be brought back from Kaduna and those, which would be filed in the court in the light of the new development.
Justice Adamu listed improved access to justice, speedy disposal of cases and efficient administration of justice as some of the benefits of the location of the court in the state. She noted that the new court would hear appeals from the Federal High Court, the High Court of the state, the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, the National Industrial Courts, the Sharia Court of Appeal in the states including Abuja, the Customary Courts of Appeal for both Abuja and the state, the Code of Conduct Tribunal, the election tribunals and other tribunals that might be established by the act of the National Assembly:
“At inception in 1976, the court had only three judicial divisions, namely Lagos, Kaduna and Enugu. In 1977, the number was increased to five with the establishment of the Benin and Ibadan divisions. The court presently has 18 divisions, our having just commissioned Asaba and Awka divisions of the court some days ago.
“Judiciary expansion through the establishment of new divisions is an aspect of the judicial reform agenda, which is to enhance access to justice and speedy disposal of cases as well as the efficient administration of justice.
“The above principle is so fundamental that, in times of severe austerity when government and businesses are known to close down some of its liaison offices and reduce their strength, the judiciary would still be expanding even at such a time.
“It is as a result of the foregoing reasons that the Court of Appeal is seeking to increase the number of its divisions to reduce difficulties associated with long distance travel to the courts as well as the cost of transpiration, cost of litigation and delays due to congestion.
“Eight of the existing divisions are always busy. Kaduna Division, which covers Jigawa, Kano and Kastina states, is one of these busy divisions.
“Further studies necessiated by numerous requests from the Kano State, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and the state government revealed that a large number of the appeal cases in the Kaduna Division emanates from Kano and Jigawa State, hence the need to create a division of the Court of Appeal in Kano. The distance between Kaduna and Jigawa has frustrated many appeals from Jigawa State.
“It is our permanent hope and prayer that after this commission, we should continue to operate under a serene atmosphere and to do our duty with out fear or favour, affection or ill will and in accordance with our oath of office.
“It is also my prayer that those who come to us to seek justice would always leave this temple of justice fully satisfied that in every case, not only had justice been done to their courses, but that it is seen to have been done.”
Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje said locating an appeal court in Kano amounted to bringing justice onto the doorsteps of a common man adding that the state was qualified for the court given the its size, its commercial antecedent and long judicial history.
He regretted that before now, many litigants desirous of challenging the decisions of various state courts have failed to do so, given the cost of taking care of themselves and their lawyers in far away Kaduna State.
“In order words, the poor do not utilise their right of appeal, no matter how good the grounds of their appeal are whereas the rich are enjoying the same right.”
He maintained that increasing access to justice amount to straightening the peace, security and stability of the state while noting that it would boost commercial activities, which in turn would provide employment opportunities and increase revenue generation that would bring about development.
He said people of the state have enough civilization to take their cases to court and would obey and respect court orders and respect the decision of the court. He said alongside with the Governor of Jigawa State, they would build the permanent site of the Court of Appeal in the state.