•As Malami insists justice not commodity for bargain
The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, on Monday pleaded with the federal government for an immediate upward review of the salaries of judicial officers in the country.
The plea appeared to be predicated on the need for the financial autonomy of the judiciary.
Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, had in recent past decried the current situation, where he said the judiciary always went cap-in-hand to the executive.
But Dongban-Mensem, who lamented the poor situation surrounding the welfare of judicial officers, revealed that their salaries had been stagnated for over 10 years now.
Speaking at the opening of the 2021/22 legal year, the appellate court president, disclosed that the CJN, as Head of the Judiciary in Nigeria, earned N279, 497 as monthly salary, while his brother justices on the Supreme Court bench earned N206,425.
Dongban-Mensem said as President of Court of Appeal, she received the sum of N206,425, while other justices on the bench of the Court of Appeal, earned N166,285 every month.
She, therefore, noted with that the salary structure for judicial officers and staff in Nigeria had consistently ranked poorly, when compared to that of their counterpart in other African and Commonwealth countries.
Specifically, Justice Dongban-Mensem recalled that the last time salaries of judicial officers were reviewed in Nigeria was in 2008, when the upward review was made to take effect on February 1, 2007.
She, however, called on the federal and state governments to live up to their obligations under the implementation of Financial autonomy of state legislature and the state judiciary order, 2020, known as Executive Order 10.
“I implore the government of the federation and states to urgently review the salaries and allowances of judicial officers and staff. The salaries of justices are static with no graduation as in the civil and public service. We have been on one salary grade for over 10 years now.
“May I also call on government to increase financial allocations that will enable us to introduce technical innovations that would improve adjudication,” she said.
On the performance of the Appeal Court under review, the president disclosed that a total of 5,392 appeals and 9,249 motions were filed in the 2020 divisions of the Court last legal year, between September 2020 and August 2021.
Out of the cases, Justice Dongban-Mensem revealed that 3,111 appeals were disposed along with 7,492 motions, adding that out of the appeals 2,169 appeals were dismissed while 942 appeals were upheld as at August 31, 2021.
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, urged judges in county to maintain the sanctity and credibility of the Court and not make Justice a commodity for sale to the highest bidder.
Malami charged them to ensure that the sacred integrity reposed on the judges remained unshaken at all times in order to foster and promote public confidence in all rulings that emanated from this Court.
“Your resolve, as a temple of justice in ensuring that justice is not trivialised to a common bargain and is in effect accessible to all is highly commendable.
“I, hereby, also extend a call of solidarity, reverence and respect for the Courts and Court processes, to all our Learned Distinguished Colleagues here present to ensure that justice is not trivialised to a commodity bargained for and taken by the highest bidder, at the detriment of the indigent, who for want of equal bargaining power, wallow in the shadows of judicial neglect,” he added.
He said uniformity, consistency and universality of judgement and rulings in the face of judicial precedent is an exceptional value of judicial system that must at all times strive to be upheld as a way of upholding the sanctity of the judiciary in re-enacting the confidence of the common man in the nation’s judicial system.
The AGF, however, assured the people that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, would review the welfare of judicial officers generally to ensure greater efficiency.