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Unpaid Benefits: Court Gives Lagos, 10 Ex-Judges 20 Days For Settlement Talks

The National Industrial Court, Lagos has given the Lagos State Government and 10 retired judges till June 21, to present their report of settlement talks over alleged unpaid benefits.

The judges’ emeritus are Justice Samuel Adebowale Candide-Johnson and nine others, who retired from the Lagos State Judiciary last year.

Candide-Johnson filed his suit in April and, by June 1 when the matter resumed for hearing, nine others had also brought similar suits before the judge.

They include Justices Grace Modupe Onyeabo, Iyabo Kasali, Adeniyi Onigbanjo, Marian Olajumoke Emeya and Owolabi Dabiri.

Others are Justices Mufutau Olokooba, Doris Tomilayo Okuwobi, Olaide Olayinka and Titilola Ojikutu-Oshode.

Joined as defendants in the suit are Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Attorney-General, Moyosore Onigbanjo SAN; Lagos State Judicial Service Commission and the National Judicial Council (NJC).

Candide-Johnson and others are seeking to compel the government to pay their pensions, gratuities, and other entitlements.

Specifically, they are seeking, among others, declarations that their pensions and gratuities were not computed in accordance with Section 291 (3) (b) of the 199 Constitution (as amended).

They are further contending that the arbitrary computation of their retirement benefits by the 3rd defendant allegedly without recourse to extant law is unlawful.

Last Wednesday, when the matter resumed before Justice Esowe, all parties reported efforts being made to settle the suits out of court.

Consequently, the judge adjourned further proceedings till June 21 for a report.

In his statement of facts before the court, Justice Candide-Johnson averred that his monthly salary and other consolidated allowances as recorded in his last pay slip stood at N749,166.66 net earnings and N561,777.64.

He stated further, “The annual salary of one of the claimant’s domestic staff is N600,000.00 at N50,000 monthly. The claimant also received the sum of N5,414,220.00 as furniture allowance on May 26, 2021. Thus the annual salary of four of the claimant domestic staff is N2,400,000.00.”

The claimant stated that by provisions of the constitution, and the Pension Rights of Judges Act, he is entitled to a minimum lifetime pension of N21,145,551.6 and therefore, prayed the court to declare that he is entitled to the payment of his pension, severance gratuity, and other entitlements, and that the governor should calculate his entitlements and pay them forthwith.

But in their reply, the governor and the Attorney-General exonerated themselves from the action by filing a Motion on Notice, stating that the claimant’s action as constituted disclosed no reasonable cause of action against them.

The first and second respondents further stated that “the administration and payment of pension of retired judicial officers have been transferred to the third defendant (Judicial Service Commission) under the Pension Right of Lagos State Judicial Officers Law Ch.P3, Volume 9, Laws of Lagos State 2015”.

The respondents also maintained that the claimant belongs to the third arm of government, the judiciary, which has been constitutionally bestowed with its independence and financial autonomy that is sacrosanct.

“Sections 291(3) and (4) of the constitution recognises the application of state’s law in the administration and payment of pension of retired judicial officers, the claimant inclusive,” they said.

Therefore, they stated, “all the reliefs being sought against the first and second defendants cannot be granted against them as they cannot implement the Federal Acts heavily relied on by the claimant”.

In its defence, the third defendant, the State Judicial Service Commission, prayed the court to dismiss the suit arguing that it was vexatious and lacking in merit.

In its 20-paragraph statement of defence, the third defendant stated that the Lagos State government was not mandated to adopt the payment of the retirement benefit of judicial officers as contained in sections 291(2) and 3(a-c) stricto senso.

The JSC stated that “the delay in the payment of the claimant and other affected retired judges’ benefits is due to administrative impediments”.

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