By Henry Umoru
THE Senate is putting in place measures to push for the retirement age of Supreme Court Justices in the nation’s apex court from the age of 70 to 75 years.
According to the Senate, it is considering the proposal made to it by the Supreme Court March this year, 2021.
Speaking today in Abuja during the Senate Constitution Review Committee Retreat to Review and Analyse Submitted Memoranda, Deputy President of the Senate Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, All Progressives Congress, APC, Delta Central said that the upper Chamber will in March consider the proposal of shifting the retirement age of Supreme Court Justices from 70 to 75 years and the retirement age for judges of the states, including that of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT and the Federal High Courts to bring in about parity with the 70 year retirement age.
According to Omo- Agege, the Ad-hoc Committee on Review of 1999 has received over 250 memoranda which will converted to bill and consider on the floor of Senate by June 2021.
The proposal to extend the retirement age is coming few days after the Federal government shifted retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years.
Speaking further, Omo-Agege said, “To put you under further pressure we have also decided to extricate one or two issues dealing with the judiciary, most importantly, the one dealing with the retirement age for judges of the states, including the FCT and the federal high courts to bring in parity with the 70 year retirement age of the court of appeal and Supreme Court.
“There is also the issue of the clamour by the Supreme Court to also move from 70 to 75 years. I am sure you are all aware that it is up to our colleagues in both chambers and of course, the State Houses of Assembly to decide whether or not we should move ahead with both.
“But I want to put you under pressure that these two bills must be ready for consideration by March. Both houses – the Senate and the House of Representatives – would be prepared to take those two isolated issues while every other matter under consideration will come up on the floor of the Senate and the House of Representatives in June this year.
” The sole purpose of this retreat is to review and analyze the 2014 National Conference Report, the Report of the APC Ad-hoc Committee on True Federalism and the over 280 memoranda we have received from the public and translate them into bills proposals for the senate committee.
“These memoranda and positions express concern, as well as seek solutions, to the many problems that currently confront us as a country. And they come from diverse interests that make up our country. They cover a range of areas that include, inter alia, the devolution of power to the federating units by, way of moving some items from the exclusive, to the concurrent list.
” Of equal importance are issues of Local Government fiscal autonomy, the unfettered autonomy of the judiciary in line with their traditional role of the administration of justice. Others are issues of derivation, streamlining of criteria for qualification for participation in elective offices at all levels, such that more people are encouraged to participate. There is also issue of affirmative action and gender equality, plus youth inclusiveness in the governance process. We are also concerned with measures that will help fight perennial poverty and help address the ever-growing concern on national security as well as the security and safety of Nigerians wherever they reside in the country. Some of these areas need to be addressed directly in the Constitution.
” By the time we began work January last year, we were faced with a 32-header 1999 Constitutional Alteration Bills. In the course of our work the issues have become clearer, and a lot of things have been streamlined for your consideration. I implore you to give these issues the passionate attention they deserve. The overall objective is that we have a workable, most representative Constitution after the exercise, that should be as straight-forward as possible. This way, more people will take interest in politics because the Constitution would have met their desires and aspirations. The fact that it is straight-forward enough would mean that less and less of its provisions and sections would require judicial interpretation. This will reduce the challenge of Constitution-interpretation-related work pressure on the Judiciary. Such reduced pressure, you will agree with me, will be salutary to the independence of the Judiciary.
“One other area I will implore you to take keen interest in, is the rather hackneyed terminology of “marginalization”. Marginalization is arguably one of the ugliest words in the Nigerian lexicon. Practically every ethnic nationality, religious, social and other group, complains of marginalization. To take care of this, we should continue to identify, emphasize, explore and exploit those things that unite us as one nation. At the same time, we should continue to isolate and avoid those things that tend to divide us.
“You should be able to work out recommendations, such that the final document we end up with, by way of a reviewed and amended Constitution, will give practically no place to the offending word. Our goal is to have a document that Nigerians, be they from the East, West, North or South, will be proud to claim ownership of.”