The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) in Abuja on Friday ordered a substantial increment in the salaries of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and other Nigerian judges.
The trial judge, Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae, gave this order in her judgement, saying “judges have been victims of great injustice” and describing their poor salaries as a “national shame”.
She gave the judgement in a suit filed by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Sebastine Hon, seeking an upward review of the emoluments and salaries of judges in the country.
The salaries of Nigerian judges have remained stagnant since 2008 when they were last reviewed.
Mr Hon sought among others, in his suit, an order compelling the National Assembly, the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to increase the salaries and allowances of judges in the country.
“It is unconstitutional and unlawful for the RMAFC to refuse to review the salaries of judges,” the judge, Mrs Obaseki-Osaghae, held before granting all the claimant’s prayers in her judgement on Friday.
She ordered that “the judgement is to be served on the 2nd defendant (AGF) immediately,” critising the Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, for arguing that judges have no legal right to have their salaries reviewed upwards.
The court ordered the RMAFC to immediately raise the salary of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to N10 million monthly from the current N3.4 million per annum, said to be far below what is earned by his counterparts in other countries.
The judge also ordered the RMAFC to review the salaries of other heads of courts and their judges ranging between N9 million to N7 million monthly.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that Mr Hon had filed the suit seeking an order of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) compelling the defendants – the AGF, National Judicial Council (NJC), the National Assembly and the RMAFC – to increase the salaries and allowances of judges in the country.
The claimant noted that the highest-paid judicial officer in the country – the Chief Justice of Nigeria, currently earns about N3.4 million per annum, far below what is earned by such an officer in other countries.
He prayed the court to order the defendants to increase the salaries and allowances of judges in the country.
Mr Hon stated that as a legal practitioner, “who has practised in all the levels of courts in Nigeria, I know that poor pay for judicial officers is seriously affecting the quality of judgments and rulings those officers are delivering and the discharge of other functions associated with their offices.”
He argued that the current economic reality in the country requires that the salaries and allowances of the nation’s judges be urgently improved upon.
Mr Hon, who quoted what all judicial officers currently earn as provided under Part IIB of the Schedule to the Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances, etc) Amendment Act 2008, said the paltry sums have discouraged him from aspiring to become a judge.
He pointed out that it is about 14 years since the salaries and allowances of judges were last reviewed upward in 2008 despite the loss of value of the naira vis-à-vis other global currencies like the U.S. dollar, the British pound sterling and the European Union (EU) euro, etc.
“As of November 2008 when the amended Act was in force, the exchange rate between the naira and the U.S dollar was N117.74 to USD1.
“The naira has considerably lost its value over time; but judicial officers in Nigeria have been placed on the same salary scale for up to 12 years, namely since 2008,” he said.