Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Supreme Court on Tuesday shifted hearing in the appeals against the election of Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue State and Simon Lalong of Plateau State and two other governors, citing a heavy workload.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammed, who announced the postponement, lamented that the court is overburdened as it has to hear thirteen substantive appeals arising from the 2019 governorship elections and deliver judgments on time.
Also affected are the appeals challenging the election of Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State and Umaru Fintiri of Adamawa State.
On Monday, the court had to abruptly halted proceedings and adjourned thirteen appeals scheduled for hearing till Tuesday, giving the sudden illness of a member of the seven-man panel as a reason.
On Tuesday when the appeals came up, the CJN led a re-constituted seven-man panel of the apex court, with the replacement of Justice John Okoro with Justice Amina Augie. He, however, expressed worry over the need for the court to meet imminent deadlines, some as near as the next three days.
“On this list, there are 13 appeals on hearing today,” he said, adding, “it is unrealistic, I must be sincere.”
Urging lawyers to speak for the judges in finding a solution to the caseload of the apex court, he said: “When you find yourself in positions of authority, please do something.”
The Constitution makes it mandatory for the Supreme Court to deliver its judgment on an appeal arising from an election dispute within 60 days of Court of Appeal’s verdict being appealed against.
While the election petition tribunal has 180 days to deliver its judgment from the time of filing an election petition, the Court of Appeal has 90 days to deliver its verdict on the appeal from the time of the tribunal’s judgment.
The CJN said despite the odds, the Supreme Court would deliver its judgments on all election-related cases within the 60 days stipulated by law.
“I am 100 percent sure that the Supreme Court has never failed to deliver its judgments before the expiration of time,” Justice Muhammad said.
He also said the court would be “realistic in order to save the situation.”
He directed that only the appeals that would be expiring on January 17 would be entertained on Tuesday.
The rest that would be expiring on January 20 and beyond were all adjourned.