The number of Nigeria’s Supreme Court justices is about to drop to 10, widely coming short of the court’s statutory full complement of 21 justices.
The number, currently 11, will drop to 10 as another justice of the court retires on 27 October.
Within the space of three years, the number of judges on the court’s bench plummeted from 20 to 14 in June 2022, when then Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, abruptly resigned.
Since then, the number has further spiralled down to 10, as Musa Dattijo Muhammad, who joined the bench of the Supreme Court over a decade ago, retires on 27 October.
He is the second most senior judge on the court’s bench.
The jurist’s retirement will bring the number of justices of the court to an all-time low of 10 in the Supreme Court’s recent history.
A statement by the Supreme Court’s Director of Press and Information, Festus Akande, on Sunday, said Mr Muhammad clocks the mandatory retirement age of 70 on 27 October.
It also said a valedictory court session to mark Mr Muhammad’s exit from the bench would be held on Friday, 27 October.
The event, scheduled to be held at 10 a.m.on Friday at the Supreme Court, will be presided over by the CJN, Olukayode Ariwoola, “who will customarily, pay tribute to Justice Musa Dattijo alongside other major stakeholders in the nation’s justice sector,” the statement added.
In September, Amina Augie’s retirement depleted the Supreme Court bench to 11 justices, following the sudden demise of Centus Nweze in July.
Earlier in June, the CJN announced 10 openings geared towards achieving the full complement of 21 justices of the court, however, with Mr Muhammad’s departure the court will now be left with 11 vacancies.
A top source at the National Judicial Council (NJC) told PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday that “the process of filing the 10 vacancies at the Supreme Court has reached an advanced stage.”
The NJC is the statutory body responsible for the hiring and disciplining of judges in Nigeria.
Mr Muhammad’s exit leaves the Supreme Court bench with – Olukayode Ariwoola (CJN), CJN, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Inyang Okoro, Uwani Abba-Aji and Lawal Garba
The rest include Helen Ogunwumiju, Ibrahim Saulawa, Adamu Jauro, Tijjani Abubakar and Emmanuel Agim.
Retiring Justice Muhammad
The Supreme Court shared a brief profile of Niger State-born Mr Muhammad, who retires from the Supreme Court bench on 27 October, in its statement on Sunday.
He began his legal career in 1977 when he was called to the Nigerian Bar after obtaining a law degree from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State.
“Justice Musa Dattijo who hails from Chanchaga Local Government Area of Niger State, was born on Tuesday, 27th October, 1953 in Minna. He attended Native Primary School, Minna from 1960 to 1966 for his First School Leaving Certificate.
“Between 1967 and 1971, he was at Sheikh Sabbah College (now Sardauna Memorial Secondary School), Kaduna, from where he proceeded to Abdullahi Bayero College, Kano for a Pre-Degree programme which aided his immediate admission into the Faculty of Law at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where he bagged a degree in Law in 1977.
“He was called to the Nigerian Bar on 2nd July 1977. Not satisfied with only a first Degree in Law, Justice Dattijo sought admission at Warwick University in 1982 for an LLM Degree which he obtained in 1983.
“He took the oath of office as Justice of the Supreme Court on Tuesday, 10th July 2012. His ascension to the Court of Appeal was more of a reward for hard work, inherent passion for his chosen profession, dedication to duty, and above all, a resolute application of the law in its true letters and words to all cases that came to him.
“He earned a well-deserved elevation to the Court of Appeal on 21st November 1998 from the Niger State Judiciary and served meritoriously at different Divisions.
“With the retirement of Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad, the Supreme Court of Nigeria is now left with 10 Justices,” the statement read.
culled from Premium Times