As court asks FG to review judicial officers’ salaries
A National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja on Friday ordered the Federal Government to put machinery in place for the immediate review of the salaries and allowances of the judicial officers in Nigeria.
Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae who issued the order held that the current salaries and allowances of judicial officers in the country are not only abysmally low but embarrassing.
Delivering judgment in a suit instituted against the Federal Government by Chief Sebastine Hon (SAN), Justice Obaseki-Osaghae ordered the Federal Government to commence a monthly payment of N10 million to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), N9 million to other justices of the apex court, President of Court of Appeal, N9 million while other justices of the appellate court N8 million, Chief Judges of both Federal and States High Courts N8 million while judges of the Federal and States High Courts N7 million.
The judge held that the refusal of the government to review the judicial officers’ salaries and allowances for 14 years was unconstitutional, unlawful and should be compelled to do the needful.
The court noted that salaries of judges and justices have stagnated for over 14 years and that, despite the increased workload on judicial officers, they have continued to suffer in penury owing to their “extremely low salaries and allowances”, which the court described as “very embarrassing”.
“There is no doubt that from evidence adduced before this court that salaries payable to judges as well as their conditions of service have been greatly altered to their disadvantage. Judicial officers are daily impoverished by the devaluation of the needful.
“They have suffered financial hardship and embarrassment owing to their poor pay. It is a shame to the country. In spite of this, our judges have continued to carry out their statutory duties. Justices are themselves victims of a great injustice. What an irony,” Justice Obaseki-Osagie added.
The court directed that the order should be served on the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) and awarded N1.5 million cost against RMAFC, the AGF and the National Assembly, who were all cited as Defendants in the matter.
Chief Sebastine Hon, who instituted the case has prayed the court to compel the defendants to increase the salaries and allowances of judges in the country.
In a supporting affidavit to the originating summons, Hon stated that as a legal practitioner, “who has practised in all the levels of courts in Nigeria, I know that poor pay for judicial officers is seriously affecting the quality of judgments and rulings those officers are delivering and the discharge of other functions associated with their offices.”
He argued that the current economic reality in the country requires that the salaries and allowances of the nation’s judges be urgently improved upon.
The plaintiff noted that the highest-paid judicial officer in the country – the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) – currently earns about N3.4 million per annum, far below what is earned by such an officer in other countries.
Hon said in the affidavit that, the paltry sums have discouraged him from aspiring to become a judge.
Sebastine Hon added that “even foreigners who have been hired from time to time to coach Nigeria’s national football teams earn higher than Nigeria’s judicial officers.”
He urged the court to, among others, declare that by a combined reading of the provisions of section 6(1)(b) and (d) and Parts A and B of the First Schedule to the Revenue Allocation Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission Act, Cap. R7, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, it is unconstitutional for the 2nd defendant (RMAFC) to refuse or neglect to upwardly review the salaries and allowances of the judicial officers notwithstanding the changing local and international socio-economic realities.
The plaintiff sought an order compelling the defendants to forthwith activate measures to urgently review judicial officers’ pay, raising that of the CJN to a minimum of N12 million monthly, N11 million for other Justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal President; N10 million for other Justice of the Appeal Court, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court and President of the National Industrial Court (NIC).
Hon also prayed the court to compel the defendants to raise the monthly minimum take-home of a judge of the NIC to N9 million; N8 million for Chief Judges of High Court of states and the Federal Capital Territory, while the other judges are entitled to N7 million.
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