The National Assembly, the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), have been ordered to urgently initiate measures to ensure an upward review of the salaries and allowances of Judges in the country.
The National Industrial Court in Abuja gave the order on Friday, in a judgement delivered in the suit before it.
Delivering the judgement, Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae, said that the stagnation of the salaries and allowances of the nation’s Judges since 2008 when they were last increased, is not only embarrassing, but an injustice deliberately done to judicial officers who toil daily to ensure justice for all.
The judgement was on Suit No. NICABJ/142/2022 filed by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Sebastine Hon, who argued that since 2008 when Judges salaries and allowances were last increased, inflationary trends and current socio-economic realities have rendered such pay inadequate.
Defendants in the case are the N/Assembly, the RMAFC, the AGF, and the National Judicial Institute (NJI).
Justice Obaseki-Osaghae, directed that her judgement be promptly served on the RMAFC for immediate action, ordered that the highest judicial officer, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) should now earn N10 million monthly.
According to the Judge, other Justices of the Supreme Court and the President of the Court of Appeal should earn N9 million monthly, while other Justices of the Court of Appeal and Chief Judges of the High Courts of States and Federal Capital Territory, the President of the National Industrial Court, Grand Kadis of Sharia Courts of Appeal and President of Customary Courts are to earn N8 million monthly.
The Judge further ordered that other Judges of the Federal High Court, High Court of States, National Industrial Court, High Court of the FCT, Sharia Courts of Appeal, and Customary Court of Appeal should earn N7 million monthly.
She also frowned at the disposition of the AGF, the N/Assembly, and the RMAFC to the case, and dismissed the objections filed by the AGF and N/Assembly, challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case.
The Judge rejected the contention of the AGF, that Judges were workers whose salaries are increased not as of right, but through a negotiation process between the employees and their employers in the form of collective bargaining.
“Justices and Judges, who are judicial officers, exercise the judicial powers of the State. They are holders of public offices, in the same way as Ministers and Legislators. The Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria is the head of the third arm of Government – the Judiciary. Justices and Judges are the repositories of the Judiciary.
“The question to be asked, is whether Ministers (representing the Executive) and the Legislators (representing the Legislature) are workers/employees, who should enter into negotiation and collective bargaining for an increase in their salaries as the third defendant (the AGF) has stated that judicial officers should do”, she said.
The Judge said since judicial officers, like Ministers and Legislators are not unionised and have no union to fight their cause, the only way to effect increase in their salaries is by constant review of Certain Political, Public, and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances, etc) Act as it applies to them (judicial officers).
“The salary of workers, in the context used by the third defendant is not legislation. It is therefore very wrong for Justices and judges, who are judicial officers, and who are elevated to a high status by the 1999 Constitution to be referred to as workers by the third defendant (the AGF).
“Justices and judges of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, are definitely not workers in the context used to address them in the third Defendant’s affidavit and written address.
“There is no doubt that from the evidence adduced, the salaries and allowances of judicial officers and their service conditions have been altered to their disadvantage after their appointment.
“Regrettably, the first, second, and third Defendants (N/Assembly, the RMAFC and the AGF), who the 1999 Constitution entrusted with the task of promoting the welfare and general wellbeing of judicial officers neglected, refused, and failed to do this since 2008.
“Judicial officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have, by this failure, been impoverished with the devaluation of the Naira.
“By their status as Justices and Judges, there is no doubt that they must and have suffered financial embarrassment and financial harassment, as a result of their current salaries. It is a national shame.
“There can be no doubt that the poor salaries would have effect on the quality of work and general wellbeing of the judicial officers” , the Judge said.
Justice Obaseki-Osaghae noted that it was strange that the AGF, who is the nation’s Chief Law Officer and the leader of the Bar, who ought to lead efforts to ensure adequate pay for Judges, was against it.
She proceeded to amongst others, issue an order of mandatory injunction compelling the N/Assembly, the RMAFC, the AGF, and the NJC, to forthwith put in place or activate legal and administrative machineries to commence the payment of the salaries she had earlier ordered.
The Judge awarded N500,000 costs against the N/Assembly, RMAFC and the AGF, to be paid to the Claimant.