Despite losing two months to an industrial action that paralysed the Nigerian judiciary for over two months earlier in the year and taking some rest during the period, many Nigerian judges will be going on vacation for another two months in July.
Some courts in the country have already issued notices for commencement of their judges’ 2021 annual vacation with more expected to follow suit before the end of the week.
The vacation, which usually lasts two months, is expected to begin this July and usher in the new 2021/2022 legal year in September this year.
With the judiciary perennially grappling with a huge backlog of cases which slows down the justice administration system in the country, many had expected that judges would cancel this year’s vacation having only recently resumed work after a period of two months was lost to the strike embarked upon by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) in April.
JUSUN members had on April 6 shut down courts across the country for at least 64 days to press for the financial independence of the judiciary.
Earlier in 2020, despite losing months to COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, Nigerian judges still took their two months’ vacation for the year.
While initially opposing JUSUN’s decision to embark on strike in April, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Akpata, noted that Nigerian courts “are trying to play catch-up for lost time” as a result of the “prolonged lull in judicial activities owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and the enforced lockdowns”.
But despite this, many Nigerian judges are going to take another two months break from July to September. In the end, they will be taking four months off work for 2021.
Supreme Court, others begin vacation
Some courts like the Federal High Court and the FCT High Court have already issued their notices of judges’ vacation.
PREMIUM TIMES confirmed from the information department of the Supreme Court on Monday that the judges of the apex court would be starting their vacation on Monday, July 19and will resume for the new 2021/2022 legal year in September.
Many courts that have yet to issue their notice of judges’ vacation are expected to do so before the end of the week.
In a circular dated July 6 and addressed to all judges of the Federal High Court, the Chief Judge, John Tsoho, said in a statement on Monday that the court’s judges’ vacation will commence from Monday, July 26 to September 17, 2021.
Mr Tsoho said the vacation was to enable the court’s judges have their “well-deserved rest,” while preparing for the new legal year.
The Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, Abuja, Salisu Garba, has similarly declared July 26 as the commencement of the vacation of the court’s judges.
The judges will hold their last sittings on July 23 (a Friday) to mark the end of the 2020/2021 legal year and resume for the 2021/2022 legal year on September 6.
In line with tradition, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court disclosed that the court’s Divisions in Abuja, Lagos and Port-Harcourt would be open to litigating members of the public to address “extreme urgency” such as fundamental rights enforcement and “arrest of ship.”
According to the circular, judges who will sit during the holidays include: Ahmed Mohammed and Obiora Egwuatu to sit in Lagos, while I.N. Oweibo Tijjani Ringim are to sit in the Port Harcourt division of the court.
Other vacation judges are: S. D. Pam and A. T. Mohammed.
“Pursuant to the provisions of Order 46, Rule 4 (d) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019, the Federal High Court will proceed on its Annual Vacation for the Year 2021 from Monday, the 26 th day of July 2021 to Friday, the 17th day of September, 2021. The Court resumes sitting on Monday, the 20th day of September, 2021.
“In order to enable Hon. Judges the opportunity to enjoy their well-deserved rest and to prepare for the challenges of the New Legal Year, only the Core Judicial Divisions will as usual, remain functional throughout the vacation.
“The litigating public will be at liberty to approach ONLY the under-listed functional courts located nearest to them: (a) Abuja (b) Lagos (c) Port Harcourt.”
The court stressed that “only cases of EXTREME URGENCY, such as arrest of ship(s) and fundamental rights enforcement are to be entertained.”