Poor remuneration exposes Nigerian justices to temptation, Senate declares
Compromises and corrupt tendencies exhibited by Nigerian judges and justices in the adjudication and dispensation of justice has been blamed on poor remuneration packages.
This was the submission of the Senate yesterday as its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, disagreed over method to be adopted in screening the eight justices recently nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari for elevation from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court.
The nominees are, justices Lawal Garba (North West), Helen M. Ogunwumiju (South West), Addu Aboki (North West), I. M. M. Saulawa (North West), Adamu Jauro (North East), Samuel C. Oseji (South-South), Tijjani Abubakar (North East) and Emmanuel A. Agim (South-South).
Before commencement of screening, which was done openly, Chairman of the Committee, Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central), lamented the poor welfare packages for judicial officers and justices in the country.
“The present situation as regards the welfare of judges and justices call for intervention. Salaries and allowances of judicial officers, judges and justices in Nigeria were last reviewed in 2008 through an Act of Parliament.
“At that time, exchange rate was N117 to $1 as against N467 it is currently, clearly showing that salaries of judges and justices have been static over the years and even depreciating in value,” he said.
Specifically, Bamidele said the basic annual take home salaries of the justices of the Supreme Court as far was N2.477m, Court of Appeal justices get N1.995m, while judges of the High Court receive N1.804m.
He disclosed that the total pay package of Supreme Court justices amounted to N753,000 monthly, those of the Court of Appeal get N608,000 while High Court Judges receive N556,000 each.
Bamidele stressed that this clearly showed that they were not fortified against temptation on the line of duty, adding that in South Africa, the Chief Justice collected the highest salary besides members of his family, who are adequately taken care of, as measures against temptation and corruption.
Speaking, Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, noted that the issues raised were critical and required government’s urgent attention, stating that a bill for upward review of the 12 year-old salary structure of judicial officers, judges and justices, could be sponsored and expeditiously considered at the National Assembly.
However, before screening began with Justice Mohammed Lawan Garba, a mild drama ensued among members of the committee on the mode of screening.
While Chukwuka Utazi (PDP/Enugu North) raised observation that it would be better for the screening of the Supreme Court judges to be held in closed doors, James Manager (PDP/Delta Central) countered Utazi’s observation noting that since 1999 that he has been in the Senate, Supreme Court judge nominees had never been screened behind closed doors.
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