By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, has asked the National Assembly to alter the 1999 constitution to mandate the National Judicial Council, NJC, to fix and review salaries of judges every four years.
The CJN made the submission in a paper he presented as recommendations of the judiciary, at a national public hearing the Senate Committee on review of the 1999 Constitution, held in Abuja on Thursday.
A 17-paged paper, entitled, ‘’Input by the Judiciary to the Proposed Alteration to the 1999 Constitution (as Amended)’’, which the CJN submitted before the Senate Committee, contained 45 constitutional amendment proposals on expected reforms in the Nigerian judiciary.
According to statement that was made available to newsmen by media aide to the CJN, Mr. Ahuraka Isah, item 38 of the proposal, sought for an alteration of Part 1 of the Third Schedule, Paragraph 21 to the Constitution, to include sub-paragraph ‘h’, to the effect that the NJC should henceforth, in conjunction with the Salaries and Wages Commission, “fix salaries and other emoluments of Judicial Staff; in the case of Judicial Officers, to review such salaries no later than four years from the last exercise’’.
The CJN noted that by the dictate of Section 84 (1) of the Constitution, the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, currently reviews the salaries of judges.
He said the power was conferred to RMAFC by the enactment of “Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances, etc.) (Amendment) Act, 2008’’, which came into force on February 1, 2007.
The CJN however stressed that in view of the fact that the Act has not been reviewed since 2008, salaries of judges have remained the same for about 13 years.
Besides, the CJN, sought an amendment of the constitution to allow the position of the Secretary of NJC to be at par with that of the Clerk of the National Assembly.
The constitution, he said should categorically identify the CJN as the head of the judiciary of the Federation, even as he called for the Supreme Court Bench to be reduced from 21 to 16.
Specifically, the CJN wants Section 230 of the constitution to be altered by substituting paragraph (a) of the existing sub-section (2) with a new paragraph (a)
This he said should read: “(a)The Chief Justice of Nigeria who shall be the head of the judiciary of the federation’’.
He wants the sub-section (b) to be altered by substituting the words ‘’not exceeding twenty-one’’ in lines 1 to 2 of paragraph (b) of the existing subsection (2), with the words, ‘’not exceeding sixteen’’.
The CJN equally wants a review to ensure that persons to be appointed as Supreme Court Justice are not less than 25 years at the Bar.
He sought for an amendment to the effect that, “All the appeals from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court should be by leave of the Supreme Court and the application for leave can be determined by 3 justices of the apex court sitting in the chamber”.
The CJN also called for the number of the Court of Appeal Justices pegged at 49 in the constitution under Section 237, to be amended to no less than 100 justices.
Other amendments he urged the legislature to effect in the 1999 Constitution, include that; “The NJC should collect, control and disburse all monies, capital and recurrent for the judiciary”.
As well as for the judiciary to henceforth exercise control over the Code of Conduct Tribunal, while the Federal Judicial Service Commission is to advice the NJC in nominating persons for appointment as the Chairman and members of the CCT.