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Lawmakers seek better welfare package for judicial officers

By John Akubo (Abuja) and Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt) 
26 November 2022   |   2:39 am
Chief Justice of Nigeria, Olukayode Ariwoola, has charged Nigerians to emulate good things that would usher in a new dawn of progressive growth in the country.

[FILES] CJN Olukayode Ariwoola

Emulate Progressive Ideas, CJN Charges Nigerians
• Wike Approves N500m Grant For Justice Mary Odili Institute

Chief Justice of Nigeria, Olukayode Ariwoola, has charged Nigerians to emulate good things that would usher in a new dawn of progressive growth in the country. 

This was as the National Assembly (NASS) Joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters has made a case for better welfare packages for judicial officers.

Justice Ariwoola gave the charge yesterday during the inauguration of the Justice Mary Odili Judicial Institute in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. 

Also inaugurated was the Federal Judicial Service Commission, South-South liaison office in Port Harcourt.

The CJN described Governor Nyesom Wike as a lawyer in a position of authority who has remained relentless in speaking up for the growth, progress and prosperity of the Nigerian Judiciary.

“You have thus far given a good account of yourself as a distinguished life bencher. To say we are proud of your Excellency is an understatement. You remain a shining light in the legal profession and we shall always remember you for your unflinching support in the erection of an enduring judicial structure in the country.

“At this level of our national development, we should begin to emulate good things that will usher in a new dawn of progressive growth. This is, no doubt, a bold step worthy of commendation and emulation.

“You are one of the few governors who have pledged to give judges owner-occupier residences so that when they eventually retire, they will get a lifetime accommodation.”

“Today, that pledge has not only to be fulfilled but has formed part of our history. Your efforts will tremendously improve the service delivery and comfort of our judicial officers,” the CJN said.

In his remarks, Wike announced that he has approved the release of N500 million as a take-off grant for the Justice Mary Odili Judicial Institute (JMOJI) in Port Harcourt.

He stressed that the availability of money was important for the institute to start off its operations immediately after the inauguration.

“I have made my budget presentation and it was not included. I’ve told the Commissioner for Finance, now that the budget has not been approved, to make sure it is included in the 2023 budget.

“But to start off for now until next year’s budget will be released, we are making a grant to them of N500 million so that the institute can start immediately and so that we can have the full benefit.”

On his part, the Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor (SAN) said the institute would promote efficiency and effective speedy delivery of justice in the state.

The lawmakers called for an improved welfare package for judicial officers after the Executive Secretary of the National Judicial Council (NJC), Mr. Ahmed Gambo Saleh, put the request before them during the 2023 budget defence session in Abuja yesterday.

The Chairman of the Joint Committee, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC Ekiti Central), who made the request, hinged it on his leaked memo from Justices of the Supreme Court bordering on poor welfare packages a few months ago.

He said the increment from N120 billion to N150 for the judiciary was not enough to cater for the welfare of various stakeholders in the arm of government.

He said: “We stand to consider the content of the leaked memo from the Justices of the Supreme Court as a wake-up call to comprehensively address the welfare issues and well-being of judges, judicial officers and staff of the judiciary, as well as judicial apparatus and infrastructure of Courts.  

“Otherwise, poor working conditions and lack of the requisite welfare will affect the overall performance of the Nigerian judiciary. I do hope the budget you are going to present before us today has addressed most of these salient issues.

“The N150 billion budget proposal for the 2023 fiscal year against N120 billion in the 2022 fiscal year, is not yet enough for the judiciary because the judiciary still needs much more than that to operate and be able to address adequately the welfare of our judicial officers and staff of the judiciary.”

Earlier in his submission before the joint Committee, Ahmed Saleh lamented that though the NJC has been able to assess 80 per cent of 2022 budget, the inflation rate in the county had adverse effects on the budget performance of the Judicial Council in the country.

He disclosed that based on prevailing challenges plaguing the NJC, the budget proposal submitted to the Ministry of Finance was N338 billion, but the council was given the envelope of N150 billion.

“Although there is an increase of N30 billion in the budget compared to last year’s budget of N120 billion, in the real sense of it, there is no serious increase in the budget considering the level of inflation in the country.

“The appropriation for the judiciary in this subsisting fiscal year is N120 billion. It is gratifying that out of this sum, we are so far able to assess 80 per cent of the fund.

“That notwithstanding, the current economic situation has adversely affected our budget implementation and performance because the subsisting budget was passed at a benchmark of N580 to a dollar as against over N700 it is now.

“If we need to achieve a milestone this year, we have to make an additional provision of over 20 per cent on the votes for us to be able to achieve milestone,” he said.