HomeNewsAll Eyes on Bill for Judges’ Pay Rise

All Eyes on Bill for Judges’ Pay Rise

Date:

The recent passage of a bill by the House of Representatives, seeking to increase the salaries, allowances, and benefits for judicial officers nationwide, sheds light on the financial challenges judges face in comparison to public officials from other arms of government, Juliet Akoje writes

Following President Bola Tinubu’s executive bill to the National Assembly to review the salaries of judicial officers, the House of Representatives has passed a bill for the upward review of salaries, allowances, and fringe benefits for judicial officers nationwide for the third reading.

Based on the provisions of the bill, judges are to enjoy over 800 per cent pay rise, with the Chief Justice of Nigeria expected to earn N64.6 million annual basic salary and allowances, far higher than what the CJN earns currently.

According to the bill, the CJN will earn N13.5 million annual basic salary and N51.2 million as regular allowances. A further breakdown shows that the CJN will take N1.1 million as a monthly basic salary and N4.3 million as regular allowances.

The package also includes personal assistant- N3.6 million; hardship – N6.7 million; entertainment – N6 million; utilities – N4 million; outfit – N3.3 million; journal subscription – N2 million; medical – N5.3 million; long service allowance – N1.3 million; restricted or forced lifestyle – N6.7 million; dual responsibility – N2.9, and legal researchers – N6.9 million.

Other benefits are N53 million motor vehicle loan which is optional and to be repaid before the expiration of his/her tenure. There is also a leave allowance of N6.7 million per annum and an estacode of $2,000 per night during foreign trips.

Also, justices of the Supreme Court are to earn N61.4 million annually and N9.9 million annual basic salary. The breakdown includes motor vehicle allowance – N7.4 million; personal assistant – N2.4 million; hardship – N4.9 million; domestic staff – N7.4 million; entertainment – N4.4 million; utilities – N2.9 million; outfit – N2.4 million; journal subscription – N1.4 million; medical – N3.9 million; long service allowance – N991,339; restricted or forced lifestyle – N4.9 and legal researchers- N6.9 million. Each justice is also entitled to N39.7 million motor vehicle loan and a severance package of N29.7 million.

The President of the Court of Appeal is to earn N62.4 million allowance, comprising N9.9 million annually and N52.5 million regular allowances and is entitled to N39.7 million motor vehicle loan and a severance package of N29.7 million.

Other justices of the Court of Appeal are to get a total of N52.6 million as total allowances. The breakdown shows that N7.9 million is the annual basic salary and N44.1 million is the regular allowances.

Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, President of the National Industrial Court, Chief Judge of FCT High Court, Grand Kadi FCT Shariah Court of Appeal, President of FCT Customary Court, Chief Judge of State High Court, Grand Kadi State Sharia Court of Appeal and President State Customary Court of Appeal are to earn the same salaries and allowances.

For this category, the annual basic salary is N7.9 million and N42.3 million as annual regular allowances. The severance gratuity and motor vehicle loans are N23.9 million and N31.9 million, respectively.

While sitting judicial officers are contending with several challenges ranging from the absence of essential working tools to poor offices, as well as insecurity, their salaries have remained static for 17 years.

Although the federal government reviewed the salaries of public servants and political officers on four occasions between May 1999 and March 2011, the last time judges’ salaries and allowances were increased was in 2007, following the enactment of the “Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances, etc) (Amendment) Act of 2008,” which came into force on February 1, 2007. The law had repealed a similar Act of 2002 to create room for the increase of judges’ basic salaries, allowances and fringe benefits in 2007.

Under the law, the CJN’s annual basic salary is N3,353,972.50 (or N279,497.71 monthly), while other Justices of the Supreme Court and the President of the Court of Appeal receive N2,477,110 as basic annual salary or N206,425.83 monthly each.

The Justices of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court and President of the Industrial Court, Grand Khadi of State and FCT Sharia Court of Appeal, President FCT and State Customary Court of Appeal earn an annual basic salary of N1,995,430.18 each.

The judges of the Federal, State and FCT High Courts, National Industrial Court, Khadi Sharia Court of Appeal in the FCT and State; and FCT and State Customary Courts also earn an annual basic salary of N1,804,740 each.

Whereas, the average exchange rate of $1 to naira in 2007 when Nigerian judges received a pay rise was $1: N117.88, the salary of judges remained static even though the exchange rate jumped from 1$: N117.88 in 2007 to 1$: N815 in 2023. Between January and March 2024 when a dollar fluctuated from N1,000 to N1,800, nothing was added to the salaries of judicial officers.

The implication is that the salaries of judges in Nigeria have not kept pace with inflation.

When adjusted for inflation, the CJN and all categories of judicial officers in the country actually make less in 2024 than what they did between 2007 and 2022 when naira was stronger.

A survey of judges’ salaries in other countries of the world shows that they not only enjoyed periodic reviews of their salaries but that Nigerian judges’ salaries are mere fractions of what their counterparts earn.

So bad and painful is the situation that constitutional lawyer, Sebastian Hon (SAN), in 2022 filed a suit at the National Industrial Court in Abuja where he sought for the upward review of judges’ salaries. He submitted that the salaries and allowances of judicial officers have remained unchanged since 2008.

Delivering judgement in the case, Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae said salaries of judges and justices had stagnated for over 14 years. She held that the current salaries of judges and justices, which were last reviewed in 2008, no longer reflect modern realities, owing to the devaluation of the naira, exchange rate, and the general economic downturn.

She stressed that despite the increased workload on judicial officers, they have continued to suffer in penury owing to their “extremely low salaries and allowances,” which the court described as “very embarrassing.” Justice Obaseki-Osaghae however pointed out that the first defendant (RMAFC) has failed to use its constitutional powers to review the earnings of these judicial officers, 14 years after the last review was done in 2008.

The judge lamented the negligence, refusal, and failure of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to review judges’ salaries upward since 2008, deeming it unfortunate.

This is why many argue that judges should receive higher salaries to ensure their independence from any party influence. A comparison of judges’ salaries, allowances, and benefits to those of average ministers, permanent secretaries, and other executive officials, as well as senators and members of the House of Representatives, reveals a significant disparity.

“One of the problems we have in the country is that our leaders do not know who to pay adequately to avoid corruption. We have situations where a councillor with just a school certificate gets more salary in this country and a professor with all his education and qualifications, gets far less. Look at our teachers, they are the least paid while our legislators get over N500 million annually. Tell me why the government should not give these judges far more. How much does a minister, permanent secretary, senator or House member get a day when he or she is out of his or her station on official assignment? We want justice yet look at what we want to pay to the judges. This is a shame,” a senior lawyer who didn’t want his name in print told THISDAY.

Recently, many Election Petitions Tribunal judges came under severe criticisms for their incoherent and incongruous judgments on cases brought before them. Legal and political observers said that some of the judges and justices handed controversial justice to petitioners and appellants.

In some cases where some petitioners were denied justice on technical grounds rather than on the merit of the case, allegations of compromise were imputed.

Reacting to the plight of serving Nigerian judges during a recent interview, constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Dr. Kayode Ajulo (SAN), lamented the disproportionate remuneration of the judiciary compared to the other two arms of government despite the significance of its works.

“Despite shouldering the burden of political irregularities and providing justice for politicians, the judges’ wages do not reflect the significance of their work.

“With less than 300 federal judicial officers compared to over 400 politicians at the National Assembly receiving substantial salaries and emoluments, it is imperative to ensure that judges receive salaries commensurate with their indispensable role,” he added.

It is high time the government recognised the vital role of judicial stability and aligned their salaries with that of senators.

Share on

Place your
Adver here

For more details, contact

Related articles:

Mazi Afam Osigwe, SAN’s Reflections on Progress, Challenges, and Hope on Democracy Day

Today, we celebrate our democracy, not because it is...

[Download] Judgment of Court Upholding CBN’s Regulation on Collection of Customers’ Social Media Handles

On Wednesday, 15th May 2024, Honourable Justice Nnamdi Dimgba...

EFCC Receives 14,000 Petitions in One Year, Olukoyede Reveals

Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission...

Court Sentences Police Inspector to Death for Killing Phone Dealer

The Delta State High Court sitting at Asaba on...

Industrial Court 2024 Annual Vacation Begins July 29

The Hon. President of the National Industrial Court of...