The executive, legislative and judicial arms of government are the essential pillars of a democracy. They’re as important to democracy as firewood is to making firewood jollof rice.
All three arms perform different functions to ensure that the country continues to run smoothly and without one suppressing the others.
And while the elected executives and members of the legislature are the rockstars of governance in Nigeria, the judicial arm is the introvert who usually operates away from the limelight. But the judiciary is just as pivotal to maintaining a nation’s balance. And at the top of that arm of government is the Supreme Court.
What’s the Supreme Court?
The court is the highest-ranking court in Nigeria, just like in other countries. It’s the King of Boys without the violence and bloodshed.
This is the court that has jurisdiction in any dispute between the Federation and a state or between states, according to the 1999 constitution. When two elephants fight, the Supreme Court is there to determine the winner.
“The best jollof is firewood jollof and that’s final!” – Supreme Court, maybe
The court answers questions on the law in civil and criminal proceedings brought before it and makes decisions on constitutional disputes.
Such cases first have to pass through the lower courts and the Court of Appeal before landing on the Supreme Court’s table.
Composition of the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court consists of a maximum of 21 justices with a Chief Justice as the head.
How does one become a justice?
A Supreme Court justice must have been a legal practitioner in Nigeria for at least 15 years before they can serve at the court.
They also have to retire at the age of 70, but there have been attempts to extend the retirement age. Countries like the United States don’t have a retirement age for Supreme Court justices.
In which case, it’s a “till death do us part” marriage
Justices are nominated
Unlike how members of the executive and legislature get into office through periodic elections, the elevation of Supreme Court justices runs through the other two arms of government.
When the president appoints a Supreme Court justice, after consultation with the National Judicial Council (NJC), the Senate has to confirm such an appointment.
The Supreme Court is… supreme
No other court in Nigeria can overturn the decisions of the Supreme Court. It’s why many people regard it as the last hope of the common man, especially when it rules on constitutional matters.
The court makes rulings that can have a real impact on the lives of Nigerians. And justices do this job without all the attention that comes with being an executive or member of the legislature.
Can justices be sacked?
The constitution frowns on the removal of judicial officers except in specific cases when they’re incapable of discharging their duties due to illness or misconduct. Even when that happens, the president can’t sack them without the approval of a two-thirds majority of the Senate.