May 20, 2024

Stakeholders back 300% salary, allowances increment for judicial officers

Breaking: Senate confirms 11 Supreme Court Justices

…Nigerians Will Suffer Injustice if Judges are Poorly Paid – CJN

By Henry Umoru

Stakeholders have backed an executive bill that amongst others, seeks for 300% increase in the salaries and allowances of judicial office holders, just as they have solicited for a yearly increment in their annual salaries and a four-year periodic review of their salaries and emoluments in accordance with international standard.

The stakeholders in the nation’ judiciary spoke yesterday at a public hearing for shareholders and the public on a Bill for an Act to prescribe the salaries and allowances and fringe benefits of judicial office holders in Nigeria and related matters bill 2024.

The public hearing was organised by the Senator Mohammed Tahir Monguno led Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights And Legal Matters, even as they lamented that the last time their salaries and emoluments were reviewed was in 2007 and also noted that the development had forced some judicial officers to be involved in acts not expected of a learned silk, in the last 17 years.

The stakeholders included the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN); Chief Justice of the Federation whobis also the Chairman, National Judicial Council, Olukayode Ariwoola; President of the Nigeria Association, Yakubu Maikyau; the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mr. Wale Edun and senators.

Ariwoola who was represented by Justice Kashim Zanbah , the Chief Judge of Borno State , said Nigerians will continue to suffer from the nation’s judiciary system until salaries, allowances and official benefits of judges are increased.

The CJN who noted that the salaries were last reviewed in the year 2007, said, “It has been 17 years, earning the same amount despite the tumultuous depreciation in purchasing power, while other sectors have theirs renewed several times over the period.

“Judicial officers have been in silence.
As a simple illustration, the exchange rate of the US dollar was 130.25 as at the time the salary was fixed in 2007 and this exchange rate can be found at page eleven of the June 2009 Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission review report that is the source of the exchange rate as of the time it was fixed.

“Therefore, as of 2007, when the salaries were fixed. For example, A Judge’s monthly gross pay before tax of 661,738 divided by 130.25 equal to $5,080 today, divided by just 1500, it is $441.

“A salary of $5,080 has now dwindled to $441 only when it was fixed. In today’s terms, the value is equal to 7,000,600 2789.

“But, however, by the historic instrumentality of the 10th National Assembly, and unequalled disposition of Mr President to enhance the administration of justice, the current appropriation law captures an anticipated equivalent of the above example at a gross monthly of N3.2m.

“Now, notwithstanding the foregoing, we know to profound appreciation the table capture that we are bringing is what the Honourable Attorney General said the President approved as the 300% increase, and which by the instrumentality of this distinguished and Senate was already captured.

“Our prayers, therefore, distinguished senators. It is evident from the foregoing that even the appropriated salary package is less than half the value of the salaries that were fixed in the year 2007.

“When judges are well compensated, yes, they do their best. But actually, as clearly demonstrated, the real interest that is being looked at is the interest of these citizens, because they will be the ones who suffer the consequences of a deprived Judiciary”, he said.

In his remarks, the Minister of Finance Wale Edunmwho stressed the need to improve the salaries and emoluments of the judicial officers to guarantee a speedy administration of justice, expressed confidence that President Bola Tinubu would continue with the legacy he left behind in Lagos where he improved the standard of lives of the judicial officers.

Edun said, “it is a continuation of that tradition that is now coming into effect and an attempt and an initiative to improve the lot of the judiciary.

“So I’m very, very pleased to have been part of this opening ceremony. Listen to the Attorney General. He is the authority in government law.

“I cannot but follow him in commending this bill and requesting its swift passage to the benefit of the judiciary in particular and Nigerians in general.”

In his submission at the public hearing , the Attorney – General of the Federation and Minister of Justice , Lateef Fagbemi ( SAN) said that the Executive Bill was forwarded to the National Assembly in furtherance of a cardinal part of the President’s Renewed Hope for a Better Nigeria which is deepening Judicial Reforms to promote sustainable socio-economic growth.

He said, “I wish to remark that the JUDICIAL OFFICE HOLDERS (SALARIES AND ALLOWANCES, ETC.) BILL 2024 is quite innovative, aside the increment in the basic salary, it also took cognizance of certain peculiarities of the administrative structure and operation of the judiciary.

“This Bill will birth an appropriate and commensurate remuneration that will ensure judicial independence and integrity. The present-day but sad reality is that the judiciary has stagnated on the same salary scale for over 16 years, this is totally unacceptable and quite antithetical to any meaningful judicial reform.

“I strongly commend this Bill for your kind consideration and do urge the Senate to support and ensure the passage of this Bill in national interest of promoting the rule of law.”