The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, has asked the National Assembly to amend the Nigerian constitution to confer the powers of control over the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on the the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The CJN made this submission in the paper he presented as recommendations of the judiciary during the national public hearing by the Senate Committee on review of the 1999 Constitution, Mr Muhammad’s spokesperson, Ahuraka Isah, said in a statement on Thursday.
The event held in Abuja.
The CCT along with its sister agency, the Code of Conduct Bureau CCB, plays crucial anti-corruption role in the area of asset declaration by public officers.
But despite exercising judicial powers, the CCT is placed under the control of the presidency through the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation in the current Nigerian Constitution. The CCB is also under the presidency.
Beyond the limited roles it plays in the appointment of the members and the chairman of the three-man CCT, the NJC has no disciplinary powers over them like it can exercise over the judges of regular courts.
The procedures involved in taking disciplinary action against erring or unfit members and chairman of the CCT are cumbersome.
The constitution is currently not clear about procedure for reporting alleged breaches involving members of the CCT and the authorities to report such breaches to.
But the constitution also requires the two-third majority of the vote in the Senate for the erring CCT member or chairman to be removed.
But if the constitution amendment proposed by Mr Muhammad succeeds, “The judiciary is now to exercise control over the Code of Conduct Tribunal,” the statement by the CJN’s spokesperson stated on Thursday.
“The Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) is to advise the NJC in nominating persons for appointment as the chairman and members of the CCT,” the statement added.
Review of judges’ salaries
According to a statement issued by the CJN’s spokesperson, Ahuraka Isah, on Thursday, Mr Muhammad also asked the National Assembly to alter the constitution to mandate the NJC to fix and review judges’ salaries every four years.
In a 17-page paper titled ‘Input by the Judiciary to the Proposed Alteration to the 1999 Constitution (as Amended)’, the CJN submitted before the senate committee contains 45 constitutional amendment proposals on reforms in the Nigerian judiciary.
In item 38, the CJN wants Part 1 of the Third Schedule Paragraph 21 to the Constitution be altered to include sub-paragraph ‘h’ to the effect that NJC should ‘’fix, in conjunction with salaries and wages Commission, Salaries and other emoluments of Judicial Staff; in the case of Judicial Officers, to review such salaries no later than four years from the last exercise.”
By the dictate of Section 84 (1), the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) reviewed judges’ salary by the enactment of, ’’Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances, etc.) (Amendment) Act, 2008’’ which came into force on February 1, 2007.
“Since this Act has not been reviewed with effect from 2008, judges’ salaries have remained the same for about 13 years,” the statement added.
The CJN also asked for the constitution to be amended for NJC Secretary’s position to be at par with that of the Clerk of the National Assembly.
Reduction in number of Supreme Court judges
The constitution he said should categorically state that the CJN is the head of the judiciary of the federation, just as he called for the Supreme Court bench be reduced from 21 to 16.
He proposed that ‘’Section 230 of the constitution is altered by (a) substituting paragraph (a) of the existing subsection (2) with a new paragraph (a).”
The new “(a)” will be, “The Chief Justice of Nigeria who shall be the head of the judiciary of the federation.”
He wants wants: (b)Substituting the words ‘’not exceeding twenty-one’’ in “lines 1 to 2 of paragraph (b) of the existing subsection (2) with words ‘’not exceeding sixteen’’.
This is just as he wants a person to be appointed Supreme Court Justice not to be less than 25 years of post-call to bar.
Another major highlight in the CJN’s proposal is that all the appeals from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court should be by leave of the Supreme Court and the application for leave can be determined by three justices of the apex court sitting in the chamber.
He called for the number of the Court of Appeal Justices pegged at 49 in the constitution under Section 237 be amended now to not less than 100 justices, the statement by the CJN’s spokesperson added.
NJC should collect, control and disburse all monies, capital and recurrent for the judiciary, the statement also said.