The erstwhile Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad was yet to get his entitlements, nine months after retirement from service. The situation said to have raised concerns as the former head of the Supreme Court who resigned on June 22, 2022, as the 16th Chief Justice of the apex court on health ground was expected to be paid the sum of N2.5 billion severance package by the Federal Government.
As part of the severance packages for retired chief justices, the National Judicial Council, NJC, approved a gratuity of 300% of their N3.38 million annual basic salary. This was about 300% increase compared to what was paid to the previous CJNs after leaving office. The severance package of N2.5 billion is to be paid in addition to the construction of a mansion in Abuja or any city of their choice with a lump sum for furnishing.
Findings showed that the NJC approved the reviewed packages in 2019 of which Tanko’s predecessor, Justice Walter Onnoghen was the first beneficiary in 2019 when he retired from service.
Unfortunately, nine months after leaving service at the age of 69, less than a year before his mandatory retirement age, the ex-CJN Tanko who is battling with an undisclosed ailment has been shuttling between Kaduna and Abuja for medical attention without an idea when his entitlement would be paid. This is despite the recommendation in the provisions of sections 291 (2) and (3a-c) of the 1999 Constitution as well as Section 2 of the Pensions Rights of Judges Act.
According to Daily Post reports, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and two other extant laws, i.e. the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMFAC and the Pensions Rights of Judges Act prioritises retired CJN’s welfare well enough for life, even at an initial rented apartment and an immediate financial package before getting a retirement home within six months.
Reacting to the development on the likely negative consequences it could have on serving justices at a time the Nigerian judiciary is battling with credibility crisis, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Reuben Atabo, who is based in Abuja on Thursday lamented that there’s absolutely nothing that works normally in Nigeria.
The lawyer who is a legal consultant to the late Military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha revealed that the late general’s entitlements have not been paid even when he died in active service.
Atabo said: “The issue of entitlement of retired justices is lamentable. Has the late General Sani Abacha’s entitlement been paid since he died in 1999? There is no need for one to belabour himself over certain issues in Nigeria. If you advise the government on certain issues, they will not take them, they will do whatever they like.”
However, an Abuja-based legal practitioner and human rights activist, Barr. Godwin Sani Omagbogu differed saying, a retired Chief Justice of Nigeria getting his entitlement is a well-known issue in government circles backed by laws and delay in payment may be an isolated issue, particularly as provisions would always be made in the national budget for settlement.
He advised that findings be made to ascertain the delay after which a letter can be written to the National Judicial Council reminding the judicial agency of its commitment citing relevant provisions of laws.
Efforts to reach the spokesman for the NJC, Soji Oye, didn’t yield results as calls made to his lines were not returned.