An illustrious son of Taraba, Justice Mahmud Mohammed who has contributed immensely to the upliftment of the Nation’s Judiciary, transversing both the state and Federal Judicial systems and reaching the echelon of his career by becoming the Chief Justice of Nigeria, yesterday bow out amidst showers of encomium.
His grand exit is an attestation to the popular adage which says, “Whatever has a beginning surely it must one day come to an end.” Justice Mahmud while addressing lawyers, family, friends and well-wishers at the main hall of the Supreme Court, with a feeling of nostalgia said serving the Nation’s Judiciary in several capacity will remain indelible which he said it contributed enormously in shaping his life and career and now he is transiting to another phase of his life outside of the bench.
Justice Mahmud Mohammed described the seat of the Chief Justice of Nigeria as a hot seat, however, said, he was determined to fix the daunting challenges, most especially as it affects the court and the recently concluded general elections, positing that the Supreme Court is arguably the most overworked Court in the world.
Explaining further, he said between 2014/2015, the Supreme Court heard about 1578 matters, consisting of 1009 motions and 569 appeals and delivered judgement on 267 and in 2015/2016, it heard about 1489 matters, consisting of 908 motions, 581 appeals and judgement were delivered on 268 and pointed out that within the same 2015/2016 about 500 new appeals were made in the registry of the Supreme Court, amounting to about ten appeals per week and most of which were interlocutory in nature and about 5000 outstanding appeals and which some were academic in nature and are the results of a free for all appeal process.
Outgoing CJN spoke more, “I took immediate steps to constitute the second panel of the courts to sit on Wednesdays in addition to the regular sitting in chambers slated for the same day. This addition panel was the first in the history of the Court, and it certainly had a significant impact on the case disposal rate of the Court. I will not take the full credit for the success, as my fellow Justices rose to the challenge, but I recognise that this was a necessary response to the yearnings of all Nigerians for justice to be dispersed more quickly and efficiently.
“I must reiterate that my tenure would have been more serious but for the loyalty and cooperation of my learned brothers, who stood by me through thick and thin, rain or sunshine as we collectively worked to ensure that justice was done regardless of the long hours or the consequences of our decisions. Your Lordships were prepared to go the extra mile by sitting till usually late hours, sometimes up to 11 pm, to conclude appeals, especially those cases which significantly impacted on the governance of the nation and the lives of our citizens. I will forever be grateful for your willingness to sit, even during the Court’s vacation, to dispense with matters as required by law,” he appreciated.
Retired Justice Mahmud commended all those who stood by him most especially, in the archival and retrieval process of case files, resulting in the reduction of incidences of loss, misplacement of case file and it’s incendiary effects, stressing that, these unstated and largely unrecognised sacrifices were apparent yet inconspicuous commitment to the rule of law and good governance in Nigeria and asserted that the nation owes them rounds of appreciation, adding that, their support was instrumental in actualizing a long held firmed conviction that the Judiciary needed to take a historic step to a multi-modal system of justice delivery.
Speaking on the dynamics of the the 21st Century which he said is different from the halcyon days when he started practice, he explained that disputes have become more multifarious and the issues more complex, therefore, the single – track system was like using a pitman typewriter in these days of touchscreen computing, explaining that, any organisation whose internal evolutions are slower than the change around them is bound to become extinct and which the Nigerian Judiciary is no different.
“In recognition of these realities, I constituted the Supreme Court Rules of Court Advisory committee to generate new rules that will embrace Alternative Dispute Resolution ADR, chaired by Justice Suleiman Galadima (retired), expeditiously drafted and subsequently oversaw the gazetting of the new rules that now underpin the Supreme Court Mediation Centre, ” he stated.
Accordingly, Justice Mahmud further said the Supreme Court is undergoing modernization and retrofitting which when completed the court will boast of latest audio visual aids, transcription and other devices that even new courts in other climes probably do not possess. He said he is retiring as a happy person because the Supreme Court witnessed more expansion in the ranks of the Court with swearing in of three new Supreme Court Justices with about two awaiting confirmation and subsequent swearing in which another Taraban, Justice Paul Galumje is inclusive.
Mahmud Mohammed pointed out that he took over with lots of challenges and thanked God for giving him the impetus to effect changes where necessary and critical and averred that, he was retiring with pride because he improved on what he met on ground and added that as the Chairman of the National Judicial Council he was more concerned about the integrity of the Judicial institution with a key focus on repositioning the system both institutionally and ethically so that it will effectively play its role as a valuable partner in good governance and the fight against corruption and asserted that the National Judicial Council has become more attuned to the performance of its function and in the best interest of Nigerians and said more needs to be done to enable it function maximally.
Justice Mahmud Mohammed took over as the Nation’s CJN on November 20, 2014, which makes him the 14 Chief Justice of the Federation, heading the third Arm of Government and which is popularly referred to as the last hope of the common man, he is retiring because the constitutional age for judges to retirement is pegged at 70 and Justice Mahmud Mohammed clocked 70 years yesterday and by virtue of the provision he ceases to be the CJN.
In his speech, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN, described Justice Mahmud Mohammed as a man with unique character and charisma, a hard-working jurist who dedicated his time to the upliftment of the country’s Judicial system.
Abubakar Malami maintained that the outgone CJN will remain a reference point in the Judiciary going by the legacies that he has left, particularly, his strict adherence to the principle of the rule of law and mentioned that his dexterity in handling Judicial matters are worthy of emulation and pointed out that, despite the daunting challenges the outgone CJN exhibited high sense of professionalism that has earned enormous respect to the Nation’s Judiciary.
He lamented that he is leaving office when the independence of the Judiciary is being questioned and stressed that, the Judiciary cannot afford to deviate from his standpoint which is anchored on truth and in accordance with the Constitution of land, good governance and Germain collaboration at all levels.
The Minister, however, called on whoever is taking over from him to continue from where he stopped so that the Judiciary will grow from strength to strength, earning more respect and acceptance from all and sundry and added that, the Judiciary system would continue to draw from his wealth of experience even after retirement.
While on behalf of the Bench, Justice Ejembi Eko, stated that when Justice Mahmud was born nobody knew that he was going to be the Chief Justice of the country and posited that, he served with utmost diligence carrying all along which has culminated in repositioning the Judiciary effectively and functioning with speed and efficiency.
Justice Ejembi maintained that when he was called to Bar and started his career from the North Eastern state, then to Gongola and Taraba, the attestation to his personal as a Judiciary officer has been unequalled and he exhibited high sense of commitment even in the country’s apex court and pointed out that Justice Mahmud Mohammed is a blessing to the Judiciary going by his honest and modest contribution to the legal profession.
He added that when the outgone CJN took over, there were pockets of problems,but today most of the problems are history and said all the successes recorded was because he carried all along and lamented that he is leaving when the profession is faced with yet another challenge bothering on corruption and money laundering and said they are determined to work assiduously to restore the dignity of the Judiciary and asserted that if not properly handled it potent danger for the Judicial system in the country.
Justice Ejembi stated that the task ahead of them as justices is enormous and assured him that most of the reforms he has carried out are so wonderful and averred that they q will work within the ambit of the reforms to enhance professionalism and ethical standard of the Judiciary and the proper Independence of the Judiciary that he has envisaged would be vigorously pursuit until the Judiciary is devoid of any form of interference and also assured him that they will withstand the turbulent weather.
Similarly, in his valedictory speech on behalf of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud said they have come to honour one of Nigeria’s most humble, modest and impeccable Chief Justices, Hon. Justice Mahmud Mohammed, whom he described as seeming frailty belies the steel of his character and unbending commitment to justice and fairness.
Abubakar Balarabe SAN, stated that, though he is exiting during the most difficult moment in the history of the country, but said, he was confident that history would be kind to him, having led the Supreme Court to major reforms and wonderful innovations which he posited that the legal profession and indeed the country must be grateful, and mentioned that Retired Justice Mahmud had an exemplary career with an unblemished character and integrity.
The NBA President described Justice Mahmud as modesty personified, with unique humility, simplicity, invaluable qualities for all who seek career on the Bench and pointed out that Justice Mahmud has served the country diligently and he is also known for his clinical legal mind which his countless numbers of decisions made huge impact on the Nation’s jurisprudence in diverse areas of law and averred that he will be remembered for his forthrightness, remaining faithful to his Judicial Oath of dispensing Justice fairly and without fear, favour, affection or I’ll will.
Abubakar Balarabe also said the outgone CJN would be remembered as a Chief Justice that spearheaded some of the most innovative reforms in the Judiciary which included the reforms for the enactment of guidelines for the conferment of the award of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria 2016, the exercise which was started in 2015-2016, was adjudged to be the faires and most rigorous since the award started, the new guidelines for the appointment of Judicial officers which is now more rigorous and transparent, revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the new Judicial policy which both were enacted in February, 2016 and April 2016 respectively.
Accordingly, Taraba state Governor, Darius Dickson Ishaku who was also part of the valedictory session, in an interview with the press said Justice Mahmud Mohammed is a man of high repute, a man with great humility, a man of great simplicity appreciated God for his life and for serving his fatherland with high sense of responsibility and commitment and prayed God to continue to guide and sustain him.
Darius Ishaku maintained even at retirement; Taraba state Government will continue to support the outgone CJN who is a proud son of Taraba state for him to enjoy his exit from the Judiciary and added that the will always rely on him for wise and fatherly counsel.
Darius Ishaku maintained that at the moment he is trying to remodel the Judicial system in the state so that the state will continue to produce the best just like him and added that effort is being put in place to clean up the system, particularly, the Judiciary and said the Taraba state Chief Judge is also doing her best to ensure that the Judiciary lives up to its responsibilities at all levels.
The valedictory session was witness to who is who in Taraba state including serving Senators and royal Fathers,