The Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria on Monday rejected calls by some stakeholders to increase the retirement age of judges and make them life benchers.
Thompson Okpoko, who represented the body of SANs, said this on Monday while delivering his speech at the valedictory session in honour of Justice Ejembi Eko, who retired having attained the age of 70.
Mr Okpoko said that while some stakeholders have called for the upward review of the retirement age for judges, others have suggested that supreme court justices should be made life benchers as in the United States’ supreme court.
“Although this suggestion looks attractive, especially against the backdrop of frequent retirement in recent years of justices, who look very well and strong at their retirement age.
“These suggestions are not feasible for now as our country is not developed and matured enough to adopt the retirement age of justices of the U.S.,” he said.
“This is because the society and social set-up of the U.S. not the same as the society and social set-up of Nigeria where our justices serve.
“American judges have full complements of highly trained qualified and efficient personal staff, who provide assistance to the justices in real-time. Personal staff are appointed on the basis of competence and efficiency’’.
According to him, our own system has not developed to that stage. There is no provision in place for providing each justice of this supreme court, a full complement of such personal staff to assist their lordships.
“How many special consultants and researchers do we have in place? The facilities are simply not in the Nigeria court system.
“It is, therefore, not wise to consider increasing the retirement age of our serving justices for now. We do not have to adopt to our country, a retirement age suitable for USA but unsuitable for our country’’.
The News Agency of Nigeria recalls that Afe Babalola, a senior advocate of Nigeria, had, in April 2021, advocated for the retirement age of supreme court justices to be increased from 70 to 100.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, at the event described Eko as a quintessential judicial officer, who not only excelled in his career but also in the development of the nation and humanity.
“He is a thoroughbred personality whose name has become a recurring decimal in the annals of the Nigerian Judiciary, ostensibly for his robust scholarly disposition and astounding erudition.
“He is, no doubt, a rare gem and unblemished specimen of humility and piety, his proficiency in the dispensation of justice, which is firmly rooted in his mastery of law, stands him out as a man of dignity and distinction.”
“In everything he does, he endeavours to leave a mark that hoists the banner of integrity and honesty” the CJN said.