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A former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, on Saturday advised the Senate against increasing the retirement age of justices of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal from 70 years to 75 years.
He said some of the judges are not healthy and they regularly travel abroad for treatment.
He also claimed that some of them forget easily in addition to memory challenges.
Some of the judges, he told The Nation, do not know their actual age and have been using declaration of age affidavit.
He said the nation can fill the vacancies from a pool of qualified, experienced and healthier professionals.
Salami shared his views on the proposed amendment to the 1999 Constitution to increase the age of judges at the apex court from 70 years to 75 years.
He said: “It’s understood that it’s being conte
mplated to raise the tenure of the Supreme Court justices and possibly those of the Court of Appeal to 75 years within the next couple of weeks. To be precise, before the end of March.“The profession is ominously silent over it.
“I could remember that the same issue was brought up by the Senate during my screening for the President of the Court of Appeal which was persuaded by my reasoning.
“I contended that very few of us had birth certificates. Invariably we rely on declaration of age, which is generally inflated because they are inferred from incidences or occurrences the happening of which we were not sure of.”
He said it is dangerous and unproductive for the nation to increase the age of judges it is unsure of.
He said: “So to be increasing age which is predicated on unsure parameters could be dangerous merely because their counterparts elsewhere retire at about that age without taking into account the faulty starting point.
“The living conditions in those countries as well as their health facilities are in no manner comparable with ours.”
Salami said some of the judges in the apex court are no longer strong as they used to be.
He added: “Many of them are not healthy. They regularly travel abroad for treatment, and some of them forget easily in addition to memory challenges.
“In the circumstances, some of the justices would only be there as passengers to fulfill statutory conditions without ability to make meaningful contribution. This is a condition that could easily be exploited by dishonest members of the court.
“It’s my humble opinion that the present retirement age is adequate for any sincere hardworking member of the court. It’s not only consuming but also tasking emotionally, physically and mentally.”
He said “there is a pool of qualified, experienced and healthier professionals from which vacancies created by their respective retirements can be filled.”
Salami said what should be paramount to the nation now is the output of the judges at old age.
He said: “We should have in mind their output at old age. The interest of the nation and not preference of the justices should be paramount on the minds of the senators.
“The employer and not the labourer determines the duration of the contract. It’s the people who make a constitution for themselves and not an institution thereof.
He cautioned against any act of lawlessness which would make it look as if the Judiciary is out to fashion a constitution and impose a constitution amendment on the rest of Nigerians.
“It’s in this act of lawlessness that an individual forced National Industrial Court on the rest of us. I think it’s only Executive Bill that could bring about constitutional amendment(s),” he said.