Bill to Streamline Jurisdictions of The Supreme Court and Court of Appeal passed Second reading

by Adabanija Kamorudeen

Bill to Streamline Jurisdictions of The Supreme Court and Court of Appeal passed Second reading

A bill to alter the 1999 Constitution to regulate the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court passed second read in the Senate on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. The bill sponsored by Senator (Dr.) Basiru Surajudeen Ajibola (Osun Central) is seeking to amend the Constitution to address the seeming institutional inadequacies and legal regime that is limiting the operations of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. To allow for seamless operations of the appellate courts for efficient administration of justice this bill is proposing the following:
a) Amendment of section 230(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution to increase the number of Supreme Court Justices from twenty-one (21) to a minimum of forty (40).
b) Amendment of Section 233(2) by deleting sub-sections (2)(a)-(e) and replacing it with a new sub-section (2) (a)-(e) to limit the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. By this proposed amendment, any other class of appeals not listed in the constitution shall only lie from the decisions of the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court with the leave of the Court of Appeal.
c) The appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in respect of certain matters by the proposed amendments contained in the bill are circumscribed as follows:
(i) Election petitions involving position in relations to the office of the Governor of a state should terminate at the Court of Appeal. In this regard, Section 246 (3) of the constitution is to be amended to read: “The decisions of the Court of Appeal in respect of appeals arising from Governorship election petitions and the National and State Houses of Assemblies election petitions shall be final.”
(ii) Inserting a new Sections “247(2)” as follows:
“Except as otherwise provided in this Constitution, the decision of the Court of Appeal shall be final in the following instances:
(a) all decisions in respect of appeals arising from any judgment or ruling of the Federal High Court or High Court of a State on all pre-election matters;
(b) all decisions in respect of appeals arising from any judgment or ruling of the Customary Court of Appeal;
(c) all decisions in respect of appeals arising from any judgment or ruling of the Sharia Court of Appeal;
(d) all decisions in respect of appeals arising from any judgment or ruling of a High Court on all matrimonial causes proceedings;
(e) all decisions in respect of appeals arising from any judgment or ruling of a National Industrial Court on all labour/employment matters;
(f) all decisions in respect of appeals arising from an arbitral award from the Arbitration Tribunal; and
(g) all decisions in respect of all interlocutory appeals in civil proceedings from the Federal High Court, High Court of a State, National Industrial Court, Customary Court of Appeal, Sharia Court of Appeal or Arbitration Tribunals.’’
d) To allow for determination of all appeals timeously, the bill has also provided timelines for all criminal and civil appeals other than election and prelection matters should be determine as follows:
(i) Supreme Court – inserting a new Section “234(2)” as follows: “An appeal to the Supreme Court in all criminal and civil appeals brought under section 233(a), (b) and (c) shall be heard and disposed of within 120 days from the filing of the Appeal.”
(ii) Court of Appeal – inserting a new Section “247(3)” as follows: “An appeal to the Court of Appeal in all criminal and civil appeals other than election and pre-election matters shall be heard and disposed of within 150 days from the day of filing of the Appeal.”
With the review of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, there is the need to further amend the Constitution and to make it mandatory for a Division of the Court of Appeal to be sited in each state of the Federation and increase the justices of the court to a minimum of 180. As a result, section 237(1) is proposed to be altered by reframing it as follows: “There shall be established in each State of the Federation a division of the Court of Appeal.”
After the bill was considered for Second Reading, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan Ph.D, CON referred the bill to the Committee on Constitution Review for further legislative work.

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