THE 2023 general election is the issue that will dominate the year until a new president is sworn in by May and a new National assembly is inaugurated in June.
The Judiciary and other Paramilitary agencies, apart from playing a significant role in the success of the election, will also look to better their performances of 2022
The Chief Justice Of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ariwoola, recently lamented over the depletion of the apex court bench following some Justices’ retirement and the deaths of Justices Samuel Oseji and Sylvester Ngwuta between 2021 and 2022.
The reduction in the number of these judges has raised concerns about the considerable workload the remaining justices have to contend with because, in Nigeria, almost all cases from the magistrate and high courts end up at the Supreme court.
Senior lawyers have also complained about the deficit in the number of Justices of the Supreme Court from the 21 stipulated in the Constitution to 13 and pointed out the adverse implications of such a shortage of access to justice in the country.
A senior lawyer Kunle Adegoke (SAN), told the press three months ago, that the depletion in the number of Justices of the Supreme Court is alarming.
He also pointed out the implication of their depletion to the health and productivity of the apex court justices, noting that the remaining senior jurists “are overworked with overflowing dockets daily.”
According to him, with the depleted number of justices currently sitting at the Supreme Court, the remaining senior jurists would become more overwhelmed with work as the election season of 2023 approaches.
Another Senior lawyer Joe-Kyari Gadzama while commenting on the issue, pointed out that any recommendation by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) should be subjected “to further scrutiny by an independent panel for the suitability, intellectual and character evaluation before their eventual appointment.”.
Post-election cases in 2023
As the 2023 election approaches, it is obvious that appointing more justices would strengthen the apex court’s capacity to deal effectively with the magnitude of post-election cases.
This is because most Presidential elections in Nigeria always end at the Supreme Court, with the recent being the 2019 election, where the Supreme Court dismissed Atiku Abubakar’s petition and upheld the Tribunal’s judgement which gave victory to President Buhari.
In 2023, it is not unlikely that the election will also end at the apex court like previous ones.
The composition of the Election Tribunal for Governorship, National Assembly and other election levels will be another critical issue to look out for in the new year.
Upward review of Salaries of Judicial officers
The need to improve the salaries and service conditions of Judicial Officers in Nigeria will also dominate the judiciary circle in 2023.
On November 18, 2022, The ICIR reported that President Buhari approved immediate salary increments for judges.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, a Senior Advocate Of Nigeria (SAN), disclosed this during the official commissioning and handing over ceremony of Nabo Graham-Douglass Campus of the Nigerian Law School, Port Harcourt, to the Council of Legal Education by the Rivers State Government.
This was sequel to a court ruling by Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae of the national industrial court of Nigeria. Justice Obaseki-Osaghae gave the verdict on Friday, July 15, stating that the failure to review salaries over 14 years is unlawful and unconstitutional.
In the judgement, Justice Obaseki-Osagie ordered that the CJN be paid N10 million monthly, while Supreme Court Justices should receive N9 million monthly.
Likewise, the court increased the salaries of Court of Appeal Justices, Chief Judges, President of the Industrial Court, Grand Khadis and President of Customary Courts to N8 million and ordered the Federal Government to pay N7 million to other judges monthly.
It is left to be seen if the approved salary package will be implemented this year or is already being implemented.
Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS)
Kuje Prison attack and security measures to forestall a repeat
The Kuje Prison attack was a big challenge for the Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS) in 2022.
The Kuje prison attack generated widespread condemnation.
The NCoS said 879 inmates escaped from the Kuje Prison in a statement concerning the attack.
The NCoS Spokesperson Umar Abubakar in an exclusive chat with The ICIR said adequate measures had been made to ensure the security of all Custodial Centres through Proper deployment of staff.
He, however, said he would prefer to keep their strategy private for security reasons.
He reiterated the stance of the Honourable minister of interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, that anyone that attempts to break or attack any custodial centre should be shot on sight.
“Adequate measures have been made to ensure the security of all Custodial Centres through Proper deployment of staff.
“Above all, the CG reiterates the stance of the Honourable minister of interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola that Custodial Centres are ‘red zones’ and any attempt by the enemies of the state to defile it must not live to tell the story,” he said.
Nigeria Police Force
Standardisation of the police investigation process
One major reform of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) in 2023 will be the standardisation of the investigation process.
In this regard, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba, issued a directive against duplicating cases and parallel investigations in the NPF.
The NPF spokesperson Olumuyiwa Adejobi disclosed this on his Twitter page on Tuesday, January 2.
He said it would strengthen the criminal justice system and standardise investigation processes in the Force.
The police and the 2023 Election
In terms of security in the coming elections, the Spokesperson for the Police, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, in a chat with The ICIR, said the Police would do everything to ensure a peaceful environment for the conduct of the elections.
“We have been meeting with all the stakeholders and INEC to make sure we uphold the sanctity of our electoral values and peaceful elections in Nigeria.
“The police as the lead agency in elections security management, has taken the bull by the horn to make sure we enforce the law, provide a peaceful environment for the conduct of the elections, and defend Nigeria’s democracy,” he said.
He added that the Force would bequeath to Nigerians a secure process that will produce a free, fair, and credible election in 2023.
The police and extra Judicial Killings
Towards the end of 2022, there was outrage as Lagos police officers allegedly killed two persons within three weeks.
Social media users expressed anger over the death of a female lawyer, Bolanle Raheem, who was shot by a Policeman, Drambi Vandi, attached to Ajiwe Police Station in the Ajah area of Lagos on Christmas Day and a young man, Gafaru Buraimoh, who was shot dead few weeks before.
Coincidentally, they were both killed by police officers attached to the same station.
The Police authorities condemned the actions of the police officers; it is, however, important that in 2023, the focus will be on the Police to see how and measures put in place to prevent extra Judicial killings
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), in the year 2022 from January to October 2022, arrested a total of 12,601 persons for drug trafficking and associated crimes.
The Agency has, however, promised to do more in 2023.
The NDLEA through its Spokesperson, Femi Babafemi, told The ICIR that the Agency would adopt multi-pronged strategies in tackling drug-related crimes this year.
“We’re intensifying our multi-pronged strategies based on a whole society approach.
…To Control Drug Supply
The Agency said to suppress or control drug supply; it will deploy more assets for intelligence gathering and broadening networks.
The anti-drug Agency said it would partner with stakeholders and other security agencies at home and counterparts across the globe and, at the same time, build the confidence of citizens to continue to support the Agency with information.
…Drug Demand Prevention
In drug demand prevention and reduction, the NDLEA promised to roll out many advocacy initiatives to educate the citizenry on the dangers of drug abuse and expand partnerships to bring help to those already afflicted with the scourge.
“More than ever before, more assets are also being deployed to dismantle more drug cartels, rein in the barons, mop up the mules and go after their assets in terms of properties and bank accounts to deny them the benefits of the proceeds of their criminal trade,” the Agency promised in 2023.