Says 33, 647 appeals pending for hearing
Notes Justices need 45 Prado Jeeps, 81 Hilux utility vehicles
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
President of the Court of Appeal, PCA, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, Monday urged the Federal Government to urgently review the salaries of judicial officers in the country.
Justice Dongban-Mensem lamented that the salary structure for judges in Nigeria had consistently ranked poorly when compared to that of their counterparts in other African and Commonwealth countries.
In a speech she delivered at the maiden legal year of the appellate court, she lamented that salaries of judicial officers had been stagnated for 14 years, noting that it was last reviewed in 2007.
Besides, the PCA said the appellate court requires 45 new Prado jeeps and 81 Hilux utility vehicles for justices of the court.
According to her, “This is because 22 Toyota Prado Jeeps have been in use by Justices for nine years and are due for replacement.
“Similarly, another 23 Toyota Prado Jeeps have been in use for seven years and are also in need of urgent replacement.
“In addition to the above, 43 Justices of the Court have not been issued with any Hilux Double Cabin Utility Vehicles before. Another 20 other Hilux vehicles, which are currently in use, are urgently due for replacement.
“I must also add that our 18 new Justices are yet to be allocated with their Hilux utility vehicles thus making it a total of 81 Hilux vehicles required for the Justices of the Court.
“I assure my Lords, the Brother Justices of my unstinting commitment towards your welfare and I shall work to ensure that your Lordships are well catered for, despite the budgetary constraints we experience.
“In return, I ask for my Lords’ continued dedication to dispensing justice in a manner that is not only quick, but also fair and above reproach. We must remember that every action is being monitored by the public and more so by the Almighty God, to Whom we must all render account one day.
“This will however depend as much on the Bar, who are also fellow servants in the Temple of Justice.”
On salaries of Justices, the PCA disclosed that while the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, currently earns N279, 497 as monthly salary, other justices on the Supreme Court bench earn the sum of N206,425.
Justice Dongban-Mensem said as President of the Court of Appeal, she receives the sum of N206,425, while other justices on the bench of the Court of Appeal, go home with N166,285 every month.
She, therefore, implored the federal and states governments to live up to their obligations by according full fiscal autonomy to the judiciary in line with Executive Order 10 that was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2020.
“I implore the government of the federation and states to urgently review the salaries and allowances of judicial officers and staff.
“The salaries of justices are static with no graduation as in the civil and public service. We have been on one salary grade for over 10 years now.
“May I also call on the government to increase financial allocations that will enable us to introduce technical innovations that would improve adjudication,” the PCA added.
On the performance of the appellate court, Justice Dongban-Mensem said the court currently has a total of 33, 647 appeals and motions pending in its docket, as compared with 45, 775 appeals and motions that were pending before it at the end of the 2019/2020 legal year.
She added that a total of 5, 092 appeals and 9,249 motions were filed in the 20 Divisions of the Court in the last legal year that spanned between September 2020 to August 2021.
On its part, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, through its National President, Mr Olumide Akpata, said there was a need for the judiciary to administer the law in a manner that would sustain its claim of being the last line of defence and hope of the common man.
“A corrupt judge is more harmful to the society than a man who runs amock with a dagger in a crowded street. He can be restrained physically.
“But a corrupt judge deliberately destroys the moral foundation of society and causes incalculable distress to individuals through abusing his office, while still being referred to as ‘honourable’.
“It is difficult to bring him to account under our system. The journey to confront the bad eggs of the Bench will not be an easy task.