By Sunday Isuwa, Abuja
The Senate yesterday said poor remuneration of judges is exposing them to temptation.
The lawmakers, who seek the review of the salary structure of judges, added that the last exercise was done in 2008 when exchange rate of naira to a US dollar was pegged at N117 as against N467 today.
The call came at the screening of the chief judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court nominee, Salisu Garba Abdullahi, conducted by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.
The lawmakers insisted that poor remuneration is capable of exposing judges to temptation.
The committee chairman, Bamidele Opeyemi, said the salary structure of judges was last reviewed in 2008 through an act of parliament.
He said: “As at that time, exchange rate of naira to a US dollar was N117 as against N467.”
“The N110 billion allocation to the judiciary is not enough for this important arm of government.
The amount is not up to one percent of the national budget,” he said maintaining that the salary and general welfare of judges require major review for the betterment of the judiciary and dispensation of justice.
Meanwhile, the senate has called on the presidency not to compromise the principles of federal character in appointments in order to avoid heating up the polity.
According to the senate, non-adherence to the federal character could erode national unity.
During the screening, Opeyemi said abuse of the federal character principle, merit and appointment criteria could compromise the unity of the country.
There has been concern by some Nigerians over what they described as lopsidedness and discriminations in appointments by the federal government.
“We must avoid unnecessarily heating up the polity and eroding the unity and strength of our country and in the process, weakening the foundation of our country as well as the hope of its federating units.
“The need for merit and compliance in the consideration of citizens for appointment, including the ones that will come before the Senate for confirmation, must be re-emphasised for the record.
“Adequate care must be taken to ensure that the federal character principle established by virtue of the clear provision of Section 14, Sub-section (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as altered) is not undermined.”
“Section 14(3) of the Constitution states that ‘the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies,” Opeyemi said.
The Senate urged individuals and bodies saddled with the responsibility of making recommendations to the President and Commander-in-Chief to ensure compliance with both the eligibility criteria, as well as the federal character principle, established in the constitution in order to avoid unnecessarily heating up the polity and eroding the unity and strength of the country.
Reacting to the position of the senate, the senior special assistant to the president on National Assembly Matters (Senate) Babajide Omoworare, assured the senate that the presidency had noted all observations made by the committee.