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Court orders immediate upward review of judges’ salaries

By Ameh Ochojila, Abuja
16 July 2022   |   4:01 am
The National Industrial Court yesterday ordered the immediate upward review of the salaries of all Nigerian judges.

A judge’s wig

The National Industrial Court yesterday ordered the immediate upward review of the salaries of all Nigerian judges.

Delivering judgment, Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae directed the National Assembly (NASS), the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF) and National Judicial Commission (NJC) to ensure immediate compliance with the order.

The judge held that the refusal of the government to review the salaries and allowances of judges for 14 years was unconstitutional and unlawful, hence the need to compel it to do the needful.

Justice Obaseki-Osaghae lamented that it was unfortunate that justices and judges who are ministers in the temple of Justice have become victims of injustice in the country.

The court held that by the combined interpretation of the provision of Section 4 (1) (2) of the 1999 constitution as amended and the First Schedule of 6 (1b) of the RMAFC Act 2004, the first and second defendants did not have the power to neglect by failing to perform their constitutional and statutory duties of reviewing judges’ salaries since 2008.

Obaseki-Osaghae further declared that the current salaries of judges was embarrassingly too low given the present socio-economic realities and other factors such as the value of the naira against the currencies of some countries.

She further made an order of mandatory injunction compelling all the defendants to, forthwith, put in place or activate legal and administrative machineries to begin payment to the justices.

She ordered that a minimum monthly salary of N10 million should be paid to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) while each Justices of the Supreme Court should be paid a minimum monthly salary of N9 million.

She also ordered that a minimum monthly salary of N9 million should be paid to the President and Justices of the Court of Appeal.

The court further ordered a minimum monthly salary of N8 million for the Chief Judge of Federal High Court and N7 million for each of the Justices of the same court.

As for the president of the National Industrial Court and each of the judges of the same court, the court ordered the payment of a minimum monthly salary of N8 million and N7 million respectively.

The court further ordered that the Chief Judge of each State High Court and each judges of the same court should be paid a minimum monthly salary of N7 million, adding that the Chief Judge of the FCT should receive a minimum monthly salary of N8 million while other judges of the same court should be paid N7 million monthly.

As for the Grand Khadi of Sharia Court and the Khadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the FCT, the court ordered that a minimum monthly salary of N8 million and N7 million should be their take home pay.

The court further ordered that the President of the Customary Court of Appeal of the FCT should be paid a minimum monthly salary of N8 million while each judge of the same court should be paid N7 million.

The court also made an order of mandatory injunction compelling the second defendant, RMAFC or any other body that would be subsequently charged with the duty of reviewing judges’ salaries to perpetually review it, in conjunction with the third defendant, on a yearly basis or every two years.

The judge further ordered the first, second and third defendants to pay the claimant the sum of N500,000 each.

Regarding the issues of locus standi, lack of jurisdiction of the court, non-joinder of the right party and failure of the claimant to serve pre-action notice as raised by the NASS and the AGF in their preliminary objections, the court held that the claimant had stated that he intended to become a judge one day and that had made him an interested party that can institute the suit.

The court also held that any individual could institute a suit that is of public interest to challenge an averment to any constitutional and statutory provisions.

The judge therefore ruled that the claimant had a locus standi, stating that the issue of pre-action was only a procedural rule and that the issue of non-joinder could not rob the court of exercising jurisdiction.

Chief Hon (SAN) had approached the court for an order of mandatory injunction for the NJC, NASS, RMFAC and AGF to set in motion legal machinery to immediately review upwards the salaries and emoluments of judicial officers.

He had sought the order of the court to review upward the monthly salary of the CJN, JSC, President, Court of Appeals, Chief Judge of Federal High Court to N12 million, N11 million and N10 million respectively.

The senior lawyer also requested an order of the court directing the relevant bodies to pay a minimum of N10 million to each Justice of Court of Appeal; N8 million for each Judge of the Federal High Court and N8 million for FCT High Court judges, monthly. 

For the Grand khadi of Shari’s court of appeal, he prayed the court to grant a minimum of N8 million monthly and N7 million for its counterpart in states.

The lawyer in the originating summon also requested an interpretation of the relevant sections of the Constitution that empowers the bodies for increment of salaries and emoluments of Nigeria’s Judicial Officers.

He raised five questions in the originating summons for determination by the court.

These include: “Whether, by a combined interpretation of Sections 4(1) & (2) and 81(1)-(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, read in conjunction with section 6(1)(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, the 1st and 2nd Defendants have unbridled, whimsical and untrammeled powers to arbitrarily and unreasonably refuse, fail or neglect to upwardly review the basic salaries and allowances.

“Whether, by a combined interpretation of sections 4(1) and (2), 6(1), (3), (5)(a)-(j) and (6) and 81(1)-(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, read in conjunction with section 6(1)(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, this Honourable Court has jurisdiction or is under duty to compel the 1st and 2nd Defendants to exercise their constitutional and statutory discretionary powers to upwardly review the basic salaries and allowances of the Judicial Officers listed.

“Whether a combined interpretation of Sections 84(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, read in conjunction with 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, the 2nd Defendant has not shirked its constitutional responsibility of fixing higher salaries and allowances for the Judicial Officers.

“Whether 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 constitutional and lawful for the 2nd Defendant to refuse, fail, neglect or ignore to upwardly review the salaries and allowances of the Judicial Officers.

“Whether the current salaries and other emoluments paid the respective Judicial Officers listed above is not embarrassingly too low and up unrealistic, given the current socio-economic and other conditions existing in Nigeria and the current global comparative salaries and allowances paid to Judicial Officers.”