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Judges Welfare: SANs Urge Authorities To Urgently Address Protest By Supreme Court Justices

Two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) have expressed fear that the protest by the justices of the Supreme Court over their poor working conditions could spell doom for the judiciary and effective justice delivery.

Worried that their budgetary allocation has not increased for four years, the justices of the apex court had recently protested to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad.

In the protest conveyed to the head of the judiciary via a letter, the justices complained that poor welfare had hindered their job.

The major issue of contention has been the poor remuneration, which has stagnated for nearly 14 years, the absence of basic utilities in and around courtrooms, and poor accommodation and living conditions.

Also with only 15 justices including the CJN on the bench of the apex court instead of 22, the job of the justices is increasingly becoming very cumbersome.

A former CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen had noted at a recent book launch in Abuja that the problem with the apex court is not only the number of justices on the bench but their poor working conditions.

Onnoghen said there could hardly be a Supreme Court in the world with 18 justices on its bench.

According to him, the courts in other climes function effectively and efficiently because of the condition of service, adding that not all cases ought to get to the Supreme Court.

Responding, the CJN was said to have constituted a Welfare Committee to find an amicable resolution of the issue. The committee had submitted a list of demands to the CJN on March 24.

Reacting to the development some senior lawyers told THISDAY in separate interviews that the issue could threaten the operations of the apex court and should speedily be resolved, given the critical role played by the judiciary in the sustenance of peace, democracy, law, and order in the country.

A senior lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN) called for a quick resolution of the issues.

“These are unusual times – very strange and intriguing. The system should urgently and most urgently listen to the cries of the Justices and indeed all judges,” Raji said.

Raji added that it must have gotten to the tilt for the most conservative set of people to cry out, adding that “it must be addressed as quickly as yesterday before it gets out of control which can prove too damaging to the entire system”.

The senior lawyer described as very strange, a system where an ordinary director in an agency of the federal government earns more than the combined salaries of 10 justices of the apex court.

“And what about the private sector most especially the banks where an MD earns more than the combined salaries and emoluments of all the Justices of the Supreme Court,” he queried.

On his part, Mr. Dayo Akinlaja (SAN), called for synergy between the CJN and the apex court justices for an amicable resolution of the issues confronting them.

“The CJN and the Justices must be on the same page and operate on the same wavelength for there to be positive headway. Once both parties can see the issue from the same angle, there would be a clear and consensual understanding of issues on the part of both parties.

“That way, it will be easy enough to come to terms and avoid any untoward publicity on the subject.”

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