Y BODE GBADEBO, Abuja
The Senate yesterday lamented the poor remuneration packages for Justices and Judges as monthly salaries, making them to compromise or outrightly vulnerable to corruption in the process of adjudication and dispensation of justice.
This is even as members of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, openly disagreed with one another on the method to be adopted in screening the eight Justices of the Appeal Court recently nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari for elevation to the Supreme Court .
LEADERSHIP reports that the nominees are Hon. Justice Lawal Garba (North West); Hon. Justice Helen M. Ogunwumiju (South West); Hon. Justice Addu Aboki (North West); Hon. Justice I. M. M. Saulawa (North West); Hon. Justice Adamu Jauro (North East); Hon. Justice Samuel C. Oseji (South South); Hon. Justice Tijjani Abubakar (North East); and Hon. Justice Emmanuel A. Agim (South South).
Before commencement of the screening exercise yesterday, the chairman of the Committee, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central), in his opening remarks, bemoaned the poor welfare packages given to judicial officers and Justices in the country.
“The present situation in the country as regards welfare of judges and Justices call for a major intervention .
“Salaries and allowances of Judicial officers, Judges and Justices in Nigeria were last reviewed in 2008 through an Act of Parliament.
“As at that time, exchange rate of Naira to a US dollar was N117 as against N467 it is now, clearly showing that Judges and Justices’ salaries have been static over the years and even depreciating in value,” he said.
Senator Bamidele added that, presently the take-home pay of the Justices of Supreme Court per annum as far as basic salary is concerned, stands at N2.477million, while that of the Court of Appeal is N1.995million and Judges of the High Court earn N1.804million per annum.
According to him, on monthly basis, the total take-home pay of Justices of Supreme Court individually is N753,000 while that of the Court of Appeal is N608,000 each and the High Court Judges amounts to N556,000.00 for a Judge.
“The remunerated poor take-home packages for Judges and Justices clearly show that they are not being fortified in anyway against temptation on the line of duty,” he said.
He added that in South Africa , the Chief Justice collected the highest salary aside members of his family , adequately taken care of, as required measures against temptation and corruption.
Corroborating Bamidele’s position , the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, said the issues raised were very critical and requiring urgent attention by the government , including the National Assembly where a bill for upward review of 12 year old Salary structure of the Judicial officers , Judges and Justices can be sponsored and expeditiously considered.
However when the screening was to begin with Justice Mohammed Lawan Garba, a mild drama ensued among members of the committee on the mode of action to be taken.