Stakeholders raise concerns as judges’ salaries reportedly remain static for 12 years
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Stakeholders raise concerns as judges’ salaries reportedly remain static for 12 years

- Stakeholders in the Nigerian judiciary raised concerns over the alleged non-review of judges’ salaries for 12 years

- A report by Leadership newspaper claims Nigerian judges are poorly paid when compared to their peers in other countries

- Thus, the stakeholders called on the federal government and the National Assembly to immediately review upward the salaries and allowances of the judges

Stakeholders have raised concerns over the alleged non-increase of the salaries and allowances of Nigerian judges for the past 12 years, Leadership reports.

According to the newspaper, that the last time the judges’ salaries and allowances were increased was in 2007 following the enactment of the “Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances, etc) (Amendment) Act of 2008” which came into force on February 1, 2007.

The law had reportedly repealed a similar Act of 2002 to create room for the increase of judges’ basic salaries, allowances and fringe benefits in 2007.

From that time till date, there has not been an upward review of the earnings of judges, the newspaper reports.

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Under the “Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances, etc.) (Amendment) Act, 2008”, the CJN’s annual basic salary is N3,353,972.50 (or N279,497.71 monthly), while other Justices of the Supreme Court and the President of the Court of Appeal receive N2,477,110 as basic annual salary or N206,425.83 monthly.

The Justices of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court and President of the Industrial Court, Grand Khadi of State and FCT Sharia Court of Appeal, President FCT and State Customary Court of Appeal earn annual basic salary of N1, 995,430.18 each.

Also, judges of the Federal, State and FCT High Courts, National Industrial Court, Khadi Sharia Court of Appeal in the FCT and State; and FCT and State Customary Courts also earn an annual basic salary of N1,804,740 each.

The Act also specifies the allowances and fringe benefits payable to judicial officers at the federal and states which are predicated on the annual basic salaries on a percentage basis.

The law lists such allowances as accommodation, utilities, domestic staff, entertainment, medical, security, furniture, personal assistance, motor vehicle loan, severance/gratuity and retirement benefits.

Others are leave allowance, motor vehicle maintenance and fuel, hardship, newspapers, estacode, duty tour, outfit and special assistant allowances.

The Act states that the accommodation, medical, security and special assistant allowances and benefits won’t be paid but provided by the NJC. While the furniture allowance is paid every four years, the leave allowance is earned yearly. The car loan facility is optional; it is a benefit noticed more on paper than what actually gets to the beneficiaries, according to a serving judge, who did not want to be mentioned.

While the CJN earns $2,000 estacode when he travels abroad, other Supreme Court Justices and the President of the Court of Appeal earns $1,300 of estacode each. Other judges earn between $600 and $1,100 estacode each. In the event of retirement, the judges’ benefits from CJN down the line are based on the scheme of service. These earnings, according to the Act are exclusive of tax. When the basic salary, allowances and fringe benefits are computed and posted, the CJN and other Justices of the Supreme Court receive a monthly salary of N480,766.89 and N751, 000 in their bank accounts respectively.

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The CJN’s net monthly salary is lower than his brother Justices because of deductions made on account of other monetary and material provisions such as food items, which are provided for him by the federal government.

Leadership reports that it discovered from NJC records that all the judges in the country receive a gross income of N8, 654,954,541.97 or N8.7 billion. While N2, 256, 351, 435.33 ( that is N2.3billion) was paid to the 248 federal judicial officers including the CJN in 2018, the sum of N6, 398, 303, 106.64 (N6.4billion) was paid as salaries and allowances to 819 state judicial officers.

This brings the total pay for both the federal and state judicial officers to N8.7billion yearly. A further breakdown showed that the 248 federal judicial officers comprise the CJN, other Justices of the Supreme Court; President of the Appeal Court, other Justices of the appellate court; Justices of the Federal High Court, FCT High Court, National Industrial Court, Sharia Court of Appeal and Customary Court of Appeal, and their heads.

Also, the 819 judicial officers in the 36 states comprise 70 heads of the courts (that is 36 chief judges, 17 grand khadis and 17 presidents of Customary Court of Appeal); and 744 judicial officers. In 2015, N7 billion was appropriated for the Supreme Court by the National Assembly, of which N304, 137,542.21 was allocated to ‘’consolidated salary of the Justices’’ of the apex court, N1,122,909,366.76, N2,795,953,091.03 and N2,777,000,000 were voted for the Supreme Court staff salary, overhead and capital respectively.

In other words, the Supreme Court staff salary appropriation was almost four times those of the Justices of the apex court. In the same year, the Appeal Court got N11.10billion, comprising N1.214billion consolidated salary for the Justices of the appellate court, N2, 699billion for personnel, N4.699b overheads (including election tribunal) and N2.496billion capital expenditure. For the Federal High Court, FCT High Court, National Industrial Court and Customary Court of Appeal (FCT), these are disbursements during the period under review: N12.1billion, N7billion, N5.6billion, and N3.05billion respectively.

According to Leadership, the salaries and purchasing power of Nigeria judges and their counterparts abroad and even in some African countries are wide apart.

For instance, in the United State of America (USA), while the Chief Justice John Roberts earns $255,500 (or N118, 807,500) per year, the eight associate justices earn a healthy pay raise to $244,400 (N113, 646,000).

The current salary for the US Supreme Court justices is significantly higher than the average salaries earned in related occupations. The President of the Supreme Court, Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Lord President of the Court of Session and Master of the Rolls make up Group 1.1 of the scale on £214,165 (N128,070,670), below only the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, who earns £239,845 (N143,427,310).

In South Africa, according to the latest report of the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers, chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, the judges in the high and labour courts earn annual salaries of R1.4-million (or N46.9million). Judge-presidents (heads of court) pocket R1.6million (N53.6million) a year, Constitutional and Supreme Court judges get R1.7-million (N56.9million and the chief justice earns R2.3-million (N77million).

The package of the president of the Supreme Court is just over R2million a year. When they retire, judges are entitled to continue drawing their salary and other benefits, which continue to qualify for an annual increase.

Reacting to the remuneration of Nigerian judges, some lawyers, serving and retired judges called on the federal government and the National Assembly to immediately review upward the salaries and allowances of the judges as well as the pensions of retired judges.

They also said that it was irreconcilable that while NJC pays the salaries and allowances of serving judges at the state level, the same body leaves the pension allowances of retired states’ judges at the mercy of the state governors who usually fail to pay allocations to the state judiciary.

They urged the NJC to make provisions for the payment of the pension allowances of retired state judges.

According to them, the judges’ salaries and allowances ought to be proactively reviewed in view of the inflationary trend, arguing that the judicial officers and other Nigerians patronise the same market.

In his own reaction, Chief Chris Uche (SAN) said: “It ought to be reviewed upward to reflect the present economic reality and inflationary trend. Judges buy from the same market with other citizens of the country facing a spiralling cost of commodities, therefore, the salaries of the judges should proactively be adjusted to accommodate the increment.”

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Meanwhile, Legit.ng previously reported that the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, was urged not to toy with reports of unholy alliance between some PDP chieftains and the tribunal panelists.

An Abuja-based human rights defender made the call while speaking in his office in Abuja. Joseph Ikpeme decried the flagrant and boisterous bragging of the PDP in securing favourable judgement in the ongoing Election Petition Tribunal across the country.

“The PDP officials boast that during its reign, the PDP appointed more justices and going by the saying to whom much is given, much is expected, Its time for the judges to show them appreciation for the honour done them in the past,” Ikpeme said.

A senator-elect under the PDP in a south-eastern state was quoted to have told his supporters who came to express their fears in the tribunal.

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Source: Legit.ng

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