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Nigerians Will Suffer Injustice if Judges Are Poorly Paid -CJN

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… As Stakeholders Back 300% Salary, Allowances Increment For Judicial Officers

Ignatius Okorocha, Abuja

Chief Justice of Nigeria, Chief Justice Olukayode Ariwoola has declared that Nigerians will suffer injustice if Judges are poorly paid.

This was even as stakeholders in the nation’s Judiciary on Monday in Abuja, threw their weight behind a bill being proposed by the National Assembly to increase the salaries and allowances of judicial office holders by 300 per cent.

They also demanded a yearly increment in their annual salaries and a four-year periodic review of their salaries and emoluments in accordance with international standard.

They spoke at a public hearing for shareholders and the general public on a Bill for an Act to prescribe the salaries and allowances and fringe benefits of judicial office holders in Nigeria and related matters bill 2024.

The public hearing was organised by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights And Legal Matters.

Participants at the public hearing lamented that the last time their salaries and emoluments were reviewed was in 2007.

They also noted that the development had forced some judicial officers to be involved in acts not expected of a learned silk, in the last 17 years.

The stakeholders included the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN); Chief Justice of the Federation whobis also the Chairman, National Judicial Council, Olukayode Ariwoola; President of the Nigeria Association, Yakubu Maikyau; the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mr. Wale Edun and senators.

Ariwoola said Nigerians will continue to suffer from the nation’s judiciary system until salaries, allowances and official benefits of judges are increased.

The CJN was represented at the hearing by Justice Kashim Zannah, the Chief Judge of Borno State.

He said the salaries were last reviewed in the year 2007.

The CJN said, “It has been 17 years, that Judicial officers have been earning the same amount despite the tumultuous depreciation in purchasing power, while other sectors have theirs renewed several times over the period.

“Judicial officers have been in silence.
As a simple illustration, the exchange rate of the US dollar was 130.25 as at the time the salary was fixed in 2007 and this exchange rate can be found at page eleven of the June 2009 Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission review report that is the source of the exchange rate as of the time it was fixed.

“Therefore, as of 2007, when the salaries were fixed. For example, A Judge’s monthly gross pay before tax of 661,738 divided by 130.25 equal to $5,080 today, divided by just 1500, it is $441.

“A salary of $5,080 has now dwindled to $441 only when it was fixed. In today’s terms, the value is equal to 7,000,600 2789.

“But, however, by the historic instrumentality of the 10th National Assembly, and unequalled disposition of Mr President to enhance the administration of justice, the current appropriation law captures an anticipated equivalent of the above example at a gross monthly of N3.2m.

“Now, notwithstanding the foregoing, we know to profound appreciation the table capture that we are bringing is what the Honourable Attorney General said the President approved as the 300% increase, and which by the instrumentality of this distinguished and Senate was already captured.

“Our prayers, therefore, distinguished senators. It is evident from the foregoing that even the appropriated salary package is less than half the value of the salaries that were fixed in the year 2007.

“When judges are well compensated, yes, they do their best. But actually, as clearly demonstrated, the real interest that is being looked at is the interest of these citizens, because they will be the ones who suffer the consequences of a deprived Judiciary.”

Ariwoola, while analysing the poor pay of Nigerian judges, equated it to a patient under intensive care who needs a serious medical attention.

He said, “Distinguished senators, In a nutshell, what we are saying is this. The situation of judges across Nigeria is like one on a critical condition in the ICU

“The proposed Bill would stabilize the patient. The captain in the appropriation door would have him moved from the ICU to the general ward. When a patient is in that condition, you don’t start physiotherapy at the ICU.

“You make sure he is stabilized, move to the general ward, gain some strength, and then you now look at physiotherapy and all other therapists. That is the nutshell of our presentation that distinguish senators as we have already exhibited.

“Do move quickly, move the patient out of the ICU to the general ward and then we will come.

“For now, let’s stabilize the patient, move him out of ICU and then we can talk about the rest later.

“The Chairman (of the Senate Committee), National Judicial Council reiterates its appreciation and gratitude to you and your committee for your tireless effort at removing all obstacles in the work of nigerian citizens for justice.”

Wale Edun stressed the need to improve the salaries and emoluments of the judicial officers to guarantee a speedy administration of justice.

He expressed confidence that President Bola Tinubu would continue with the legacy he left behind in Lagos where he improved the standard of lives of the judicial officers.

Edun said, “it is a continuation of that tradition that is now coming into effect and an attempt and an initiative to improve the lot of the judiciary.

“So I’m very, very pleased to have been part of this opening ceremony. Listen to the Attorney General. He is the authority in government law.

“I cannot but follow him in commending this bill and requesting its swift passage to the benefit of the judiciary in particular and Nigerians in general.”

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