Andrew Orolua, Abuja
The acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, said on Thursday that justices of the Supreme Court are independent-minded and are only answerable to their conscience and God while writing their judgments in cases brought before them.
Justice Muhammad, who made this assertion when the management of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) paid him a courtesy visit on Thursday in Abuja, said the justices cannot be intimidated.
“We take our time in taking notes and writing judgments to avoid making mistakes. We subject every case before us to intense debates and arguments during our conferences in order to be as dispassionate and objective as possible.
‘’Let me state clearly that we are not answerable to anybody and can never be intimidated by anybody whatsoever in taking our decisions.
“But for certain, we are only answerable to God Almighty because he is the owner of our lives. No human being, living or dead can influence the reasoning or judgments of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“We are very independent in Supreme Court because of the enormity of the trust and responsibility reposed in us by the almighty God, the Constitution and our dear nation,” the acting CJN stated.
Justice Muhammad further informed his visitors that the Supreme Court of Nigeria has so far remained the busiest and most hardworking Supreme Court in the world, judging by the number of appeals received and heard on weekly basis as well as the number of judgments delivered within short durations.
He asserted that there is no Supreme Court in the world that works the way Supreme Court of Nigeria does, adding that except during the Court annual vacation between late July and early September each year, justices of the Court continue to hear appeals.
“It is on record that there is no day of the week, between Monday and Friday that we don’t sit.
“We deliver judgments on Fridays. Sometimes, we give as much as 35 judgments on some Fridays. We oftentimes over-stretch ourselves, as we work assiduously day in, day out,” he stated..
He also spoke about the volume of appeals that come to the court. He said that many will be shocked on the number of appeals that come to the apex court on a regular basis and there is nothing that can be done about it for now except there is a constitutional amendment.
“Ideally, it is not every case that is supposed to reach Supreme Court. Some ought to be terminating at the Court of Appeal,” he said.
Justice Muhammad, however, assured the AMCON Management that the Court, in spite of the rapid inflow of appeals, will always endeavour to bend over backwards, to give all cases involving both private individuals and other critical sectors of the Nigerian state expeditious hearing and attention with a view to oiling the wheel of the nation’s economic development.
Earlier in his address, the AMCON Chairman, Dr. Muiz Banire (SAN), had intimated the acting CJN and other Justices of the Supreme Court present that the Asset Management Corporation by its establishment Act of 2010 has the duty to assist in ensuring financial stability.
This it has been during over the years with acquisition of over 120,000 loans from 23 banks totalling N3.8trn. AMCON has also paid about N2.2trn as financial accommodation for the then ailing banks, and has a total current exposure of N4.19 trillion, with an excess of 7,000 outstanding obligors.
According to Banire, top 350 obligors account for 82% of the outstanding loans of N4.19 trillion, while just the top 100 made up 67% while 20 top accounts had total current exposure of N1.71 trillion, which is about 41% of the total current exposure of N4.19 trillion.
The AMCON chairman said that a major handicap of the Corporation is the delay tactics often employed by the defaulters to frustrate the cases currently pending in various courts across the country.
Besides, Justice Muhammad, other justices of the Supreme Court at the event were Justices Olukayode Ariwoola, Kekere-Ekun, Musa Dattijo, Ejembi Eko and Uwani Abba-Aji.