By Innocent Anaba
Magistrates in the country have raised the alarm over threat to their lives and properties and called on the National Judicial Council (NJC), to come to their rescue.
Under the aegis of Magistratesâ€™ Association of Nigeria (MAN), the magistrates raised the matter, when members of its National Executive paid a courtesy visit on the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Idris Kutigi, in Abuja.
Some unidentified police officers from the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Panti, Yaba, Lagos, had allegedly beaten Magistrate Wilberforce Meigbope of the Ebute-Meta Magistrate’s Court, Botanical Garden, Lagos, recently.
At the meeting, President of the association, Mr. Sadiq Yusuf, said criminality in parts of the country had assumed worrisome dimensions, adding that magistrates as a matter of obligation adjudicate over a majority of these criminal cases.
According to him, there should be adequate security for magistrates in the courts and at their homes in view of the nature of their work.
â€œcriminality in parts of Nigeria is assuming alarming dimensions and, willy-nilly, Magistrates as a matter of obligation adjudicate over majority of these cases. Kidnapping and assault on Magistrates has increased thereby necessitating enhanced security for Magistrates like other judicial officers. We desperately need the intervention of My Lord.â€
He lamented the poor remuneration of Magistrates, saying that their remuneration is not in tandem with the function they perform.
â€œIt is generally acknowledged that the place of Magistrates in the overall judicial chain is cardinal, unfortunately our remuneration is not in tandem with the function we perform. Compared to other professionals who perform far less hazardous and tasking jobs, and considering that the nature of their calling make it undignifying for Magistrates to indulge in industrial actions like strikesâ€, he said.
They demanded that they should be categorized separately from Area Courts and Customary Courts Judges for the purpose of remuneration and conditions of service.Admitting that Magistrates were not mentioned in the Nigerian constitution as Judicial Officers,it however, contended that Magistrateâ€™s Courts are creations of statues and are therefore regarded as lower courts together with Area Courts and Customary Courts.The Association noted that all Magistrates are legally trained persons with varied years of post-call experience between 5 and 30 years and handle both criminal and civil matters in accordance with law.
Head of National Minimum Wage, Justice Alfa Belgore, former Chief Justice the Federation, the Magistrates acknowledged the assistance and contribution of the former CJF to the magistracy but that the problems facing it had not abated.
The Association called on the Chief Justice of the Federation to assist them in the forthcoming Commonwealth Magistratesâ€™ and Judgesâ€™ Association Conference due to take place in September 2009 in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean. â€œWe particularly urge that my Lord nominate all national officers to attend this yearâ€™s Conference as the experience will be invaluable to the Association and add value to our individual job performancesâ€, the Association said.