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The Nigerian Bar Association and some Senior Advocates of Nigeria have commended the executive and legislative arms of government for the proposed increment in the salaries of judges in the country.

There had been calls from different quarters to increase the remuneration of judges in the country.

In October 2023, a retired Supreme Court Justice, Dattijo Muhammad, during his valedictory ceremony lamented the poor salary structure of Justices in Nigeria.

According to him, the monthly salary of the apex court registrar stood at N1.2 million while Justices get N751,000, representing a 37.4 percent disparity.

Similarly, in September 2021 during the Appeal Court’s Legal Year, the President of the Court, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, appealed to the Federal Government to conduct an upward review of the salaries of judicial officers in the country.

“As President of the Court of Appeal, I receive N206,425, while other justices on the bench of the Court of Appeal go home with N166,285 every month,” she was quoted as saying.

In June 2022, a lawyer, Sebastine Hon sued the Attorney-General of the Federation and the National Judicial Council over the poor salaries of judges.

Also in 2022, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen said justices of the apex court had been suffering in silence since 2008 when their salaries and emoluments were last reviewed by the government.

Lawyers back increase

However, reacting to the move by the House of Representatives, the NBA spokesperson, Akorede Lawal the review is a reward for the efforts the association had been making.

He noted that the increment would grant the judges the financial independence and security they need.

Lawal said, “This is something that this NBA administration has fought for. The records are there to show the efforts of the NBA under the leadership of Yakubu Maikyau(SAN). We are happy that the fruits of this labour are being ripped at the moment. What’s left for us is to appreciate the judiciary for understanding the NBA’s position that a well-renumerated judicial officer is less susceptible to corruption and corrupt-minded people.

“We feel that the work the judiciary is doing is a very important one, financial independence and financial security are very important and a cornerstone of that judicial functions. We can only hope that the judiciary would continue to wax stronger and this will also encourage the judicial officers to be more upright.”

Also, Yusuff Ali (SAN) said when the increment is implemented, it would help to get the best out of our judges.

He said, “It is a very positive development. Some of us had been advocating for this. You will have to pay people the money that is commensurate with the kind of job they do. These are judges that have the power of life and death as it were and they determine commercial disputes that run to billions of naira. The kind of work they do is so arduous that you can hardly compensate them enough. Like in other places, they should be one of the best-paid government officials. The increment is a welcome development. I am sure when the payment starts, it will improve the output of the judges.”

Adegoke Rasheed ( SAN) recommended that there should be a legislation in place for the periodic review of judges’ salaries.

He said, “He brought about improvement to the welfare of the judicial officers as a governor in Lagos. It is a nice development to see he has replicated that as the president. Hungry judiciary officials cannot get the work done effectively. That’s why the remuneration of judges is of huge importance to the government.

“I want to recommend that this must be subject to review from time to time. There must be legislation for this so that what they went through before getting this is not repeated. “

Two senior advocates of Nigeria Prof Mike Ozekhome and Chief Niyi Akintola have commended the House of Representatives for passing a bill for the increment of the salary of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and other judicial officers but said it was a far cry from what they should be receiving.

They stated that the Senate and House of Representatives should review it and increase the amount.

Ozekhome said he had always believed that the salary of judges was too poor.

He said that the salary of judges has been too poor. For more than 25 years, and that he had protested against the poor salary structure of judges.

Ozekhome said “I’ve done many write-ups, many articles about judges salary, in some of my write-ups, I compare the salary of Nigerian judges with those of their counterparts abroad, and you’ll find that they are peanuts.

“The service structure of judges is too poor for comfort. And you see people talk about corruption in the judiciary. I tell them these people also work within the society.

“They work within the same society, they buy from the same market, they have their wives and children, they have to pay bills, light electricity that is not there, buy diesel, buy generator, travel in cars.

“You can’t expect, a judge to be on N 500,000 a month, and then you expect the judge not to be corrupt. That amount is not enough. It’s not enough for even the local government council chairman to fuel his car, his fleet of cars, in one week.”

The senior advocate further stated It’s a good thing, and that it’s salutary, that they are raising the salary up by saying the chief justice of Nigeria will now receive 4. something million Naira per month. But even after, that is still about approximately 50 million Naira, 50 million Naira a year.

“50 million Naira a year. Although it is much better. But I’m telling you that with the inflationary trend we have now, 50 million Naira in a year will actually not do anything for the chief justice of Nigeria.

“Because some of these legislators, 360 legislators, and 109 senators, some of them take home that amount in a month, 50 million Naira in a month. Some take home 30 million. Some principal officers take home more than N100 million.

“All these things are in the public domain. So giving a judge like N30 to N50 million in a year is not something that we should roll out the drums for and begin to jubilate. But all I can say is that it is better than before.

The House of Representatives and the Senate should jack up the salary more than that. I do not see why the chief justice of Nigeria, who heads one of the three arms of government, the judiciary, should receive less than 10 to 15 million Naira per month. I do not see why at all,” he said.

In his view, Akintola said, that before now, the Body of Bencher, and the NBA, had consolidated the committee, and workout modality, and even prepared a bill in respect of judicial officers’ salaries.

He said Don’t forget that we have passed the Public Officers’ Salaries and Enrollment Act of 2008, which was instituted about a year and a half ago. But, how many states are enforcing or implementing the NBA law?

According to him, there was an Act of the National Assembly in respect of that, including that we need to be giving vehicles, accommodations, and what have you. It took Plateau State’s judiciary to get a court action before they could get their entrenchment.

“It took the judiciary to go to court against the government and the governor of that state. And at that time, the governor of the state was even a lawyer.

“So, it’s the attitude of the politicians that we should deal with. I want to commend the National Assembly as well for the initiatives they have taken.

“But I’m telling you our attitude, our perception of judicial officers because there are states of the state that treat their judiciary as an arm of the Ministry of Justice.

“It’s a commendable effort, but if you go by, even that 4 million something, if you go by today’s standards of living, the inclusionary agenda, even what has been proposed, it’s nothing but.. it is a far cry from the reality,” he said.