Malami rejects salary increment for judges as NBA calls for reforms in judiciary

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THE Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, has requested that a lawsuit seeking an increase in the pay for judges in the nation be dismissed by the National Industrial Court (NIC) in Abuja.

This was as the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) called for urgent fundamental reforms of the administration and governance of the Nigerian Judiciary.

In a counter-affidavit and preliminary objection, the AGF argued that Sebastian Hon, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) lacked the necessary locus standi to bring the lawsuit before the court.

Malami‘s opposition to the lawsuit was filed on the day Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osagie had scheduled to hear a report on a suggested settlement outside of court.

On June 6, the court had agreed to an appeal by the National Assembly, a defendant in the litigation, for parties to be permitted to explore an alternative way of settling the sticky problem of poor remuneration of judicial officers across the federation.

The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, or RMAFC, was added as a defendant in the lawsuit along with Malami, NASS, and the National Judicial Council (NJC).

Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, who announced the plaintiff’s presence at the resumed proceedings on Wednesday with more than 30 other SANs and NBA President Olumide Akpata, stated that he had received Malami’s objection to the lawsuit.

Therefore, he urged the court to permit the matter to continue so that the plaintiff’s originating summons may be heard.

Malami’s attorney, Ekene Elodimuo, also stated that the AGF was eager to raise problems with the plaintiff during the hearing after filing the required paperwork.

The NJC, however, requested a brief recess so that it could submit its reply.

Consequently, Adegoke informed the court that he was briefed to handle the matter, less than 24 hours before the sitting.

He further noted that he would need time to study the originating summons to be able to file the necessary processes.

There was no opposition to his request for an adjournment which led to Justice Obaseki-Osagie, scheduling June 28 for the next hearing.

MEANWHILE, in a press statement issued by the President, Olumide Akpata, the NBA describes as disheartening and unfortunate the conditions highlighted in the letter written by 14 Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (“CJN”), alleging various improprieties and administrative inefficiencies and the subsequent response of the CJN.

The NBA noted that the situation has not not only affected the judicial responsibilities of the justices but also impacted on the justice administration process.

While advocate for the independence and financial autonomy of the Judiciary, the NBA also noted that it is important that the Judiciary must not only be, but should be seen as being, above board and transparent in the management and allocation of the resources currently available to it.

“The Judiciary must entrench the principles of accountability and probity in the manner in which it expends allocated resources. While the fight for increased budgetary allocations for the Judiciary continues, it is important that the available resources be used for the welfare and wellbeing of our Judicial Officers, as well as for the improvement of the infrastructure and facilities required by our Judges and Justices to effectively discharge their duties.

“There is a clear need for mechanisms to be put in place to ensure that the Judiciary (with the Supreme Court leading the charge) is providing the necessary template to other arms of government on transparent procurement and budgeting. This will reduce the perception in some quarters that the Judiciary is not accountable to anyone and is also not self-regulating.”

The NBA President also says that with the election season, and the humongous war chests that the politicians and political parties are amassing, the only way to insulate and make our Judges and Justices immune to the temptations of being corrupted by these politicians is to assure them of decent working conditions and adequate compensation both in and out of service.

The judges and Justices, on their part, have a duty to ensure that the honour and respect that is accorded the Judiciary by the public is not lost or dwindled, and that the public continues to hold the Judiciary in the highest esteem.

 

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