Stakeholders in the nation’s third arm of government have raised concern over the frequently recorded death of justices of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN).
Those who spoke to LEADFERSHIP said the development could be as a result of either delayed payment of salaries or poor salaries and wages earned by the judges.
They also noted that apart from poor remuneration, the working environment of justices of the NICN is deplorable, compared to that of justices of the regular courts.
One of the stakeholders who did not want his name in print told our correspondent: “The condition under which judges of the Industrial Court of Nigeria work is pitiable. This is coupled with the fact that they are not paid good salaries like their colleagues in the regular courts.
“With the load of work these justices handle from cases before them, you don’t expect them to be psychologically stable in doing the job when they have family problems to grapple with. That is why judges of the regular courts are treated well in terms of welfare, considering the arduous tasks which the dispensation of justice demands”.
LEADERSHIP recalls that last Sunday in Kaduna, the presiding Judge of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), Kaduna division, Justice Lawal Mani reportedly died at the age of 63 after a protracted illness.
Incidentally, Justice Mani handled the case challenging Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State over the sack of 21,780 teachers.
He was also handling the case of illegal impeachment of the chairman, Kaduna State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Garba Muhammad against the union and three others.
This is just as the presiding Judge of the Port Harcourt Division of the NICN, Justice Auwal Ibrahim, died of heart failure on Monday February 26, 2018.
His body was flown from Port Harcourt by the Rivers State government to Kano before he was taken to Bauchi where he was buried in Azare.
The late Justice Ibrahim served in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation’s working committee on the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and was also on its Editorial Board.
But in a swift reaction, president of National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), Justice Babatunde Adeniran Adejumo, yesterday dismissed the claim that poor remuneration and poor working condition are the causes of deaths recorded recently among justices of the court.
In a telephone chat with LEADERSHIP, Adejumo argued that the deaths were coincidental, natural and were not triggered by either load of work, poor salary earnings or delayed salary payments.
Justice Adejumo who was appointed NICN president on April 14, 2003 said the National Industrial Court of Nigeria is one of the superior courts of record and as such, its earnings are through first line charge as well.
According to him, the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, which was established in 1976, is one of the superior courts of record, and judicial officers in this court earn their salaries through National Judicial Council (NJC) that collects such funds on first line charge.
He said, “We are not owing our judicial officers, and indeed our workers, any salaries, just as no judicial officer is suffering from any work over-loads.
“Those deaths are natural as well as the sequence or frequency you talked about are coincidental. There is nothing untoward about any death. Once it is time there is little or nothing anyone can do about it’’.
According to the Salaries and Wages Commission report, justices of the Supreme Court and the president of the Court of Appeal have the same annual salary of N2.47 million each, while justices of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Chief Judge of the FCT, president of the National Industrial Court, Grand Khadi of the FCT Sharia Court of Appeal, President FCT Customary Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of States, Grand Khadi of state Sharia Court of Appeal and president of state Customary Court of Appeal all have N1.99 million each as annual salary.
Judges of the Federal High Court, National Industrial Court, FCT High Court, State High Courts, FCT Sharia Court of Appeal, FCT Customary Court of Appeal, Khadi state Sharia Court of Appeal and State Customary Court of Appeal all have N1.80 million each as annual salary.
It would be recalled that while Professor Yemi Osinbajo was the acting president, he approved the appointment of 19 judges for National Industrial Court of Nigeria who were sworn in by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, on Friday, July 14, 2017.
The judges include Targema John Iorngee (Benue), Namtari Mahmood Abba (Adamawa), Nweneka Gerald Ikechi (Rivers), Kado Sanusi (Katsina), Adeniyi Sinmisola Oluyinka (Ogun) and Abiola Adunola Adewemimo (Osun), Opeloye Ogunbowale A. represented Lagos State; Essien Isaac Jeremiah (Akwa Ibom), Elizabeth Ama Oji (Ebonyi), Arowosegbe Olukayode Ojo (Ondo), Ogbuanya Nelson S. Chukwudi (Enugu), Bashir Zaynab Mohammed (Niger) and Galadima Ibrahim Suleiman (Nasarawa).
Others are Bassi Paul Ahmed (Borno), Danjidda Salisu Hamisu (Kano), Hamman Idi Polycarp (Taraba), Damulak Kiyersohot Dashe (Plateau), Alkali Bashar Attahiru (Sokoto) and Mustapha Tijjani (Jigawa).
Before then, former President Goodluck Jonathan had approved the appointment of 12 new Judges for the National Industrial Court of Nigeria on March 17, 2013.
The judges are Edith Agbakoba, Anthonia Ubaka, Olufunke Anuwe, John Peters, Oyejoju Oyewumi, Kenneth Amadi, Peter Lifu, Rakiya Haastrup, Waziri Abali, Rabi Gwadu, Lawal Mani and Ebeye Isele.