Legal/Judiciary

Obedience to court judgment, the hallmark of democratic, civilised governance’ — SAN 

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Mr. Olalekan Ojo has insisted that obedience to the judgment of the Court remains the hallmark of democratic and civilised governance.

He stated this on Wednesday while fielding questions on the judgment of the National Industrial Court sitting in Abuja, which had ordered the Federal Government of Nigeria, FGN, to review upwards, the salaries of judicial officers in the country.

Speaking on how he feels the judgment should be executed, the SAN who argued that executing the judgment would not be a difficult task posited that, “The fact that the Attorney General of the Federation and the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, are parties, one should expect these defendants to obey the judgment of the Industrial Court to show an example that we have a government that respects the rule of law.

“In my view, the judgment has merely vindicated the clamour for the upward review of the salaries of judicial officers in the country.

“However, I do not expect the government to appeal that judgment. But the decision to appeal or not is that of the government, and it should not be crucified nor condemned for exercising its constitutional right of appeal against that judgment if they so desire.

“An appeal against that judgment would make it impossible for the same to be executed. In reality, should there be an appeal against that judgment, that would clearly mean that the end is not in sight as far as that issue is concerned.

“But whether there is an appeal or not, it will not stop the appropriate agencies from setting in motion the necessary machinery to that effect.”

It would be recalled that the NIC had in its judgment delivered on Friday, July 15, 2022, reviewed and increased the salaries of judicial officers in the country.

The Court, presided over by Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osagie, had noted that the salaries of judges and justices have stagnated for over 14 years.

Justice Obaseki-Osagie held that despite the increased workload on judicial officers, they have continued to suffer in penury owing to their “extremely low salaries and allowances”.

The judge said: “There is no doubt that from evidence adduced before this court that salaries payable to judges as well as their conditions of service have been greatly altered to their disadvantage.

“Judicial officers are daily impoverished by the devaluation of the Naira. They have suffered financial hardship and embarrassment owing to their poor pay. It is a shame to the country.

“Despite this, our judges have continued to carry out their statutory duties. Justices are themselves victims of a great injustice. 

“What an irony”.

She held that judges in the country have the right to have their salaries reviewed upwards periodically, adding that the NIC, being the Court that determines labour and employment-related matters, has the constitutional power to compel FG, through its agencies, to upwardly review the remuneration of judicial officers.

The judge had, as a result, made an order, increasing the salary of the Chief Justice of Nigeria to N10m, while that of justices of the Supreme Court and President of the Court of Appeal was increased to N9m.

Likewise, the court increased the salaries of Court of Appeal Justices, Chief Judges, President of the Industrial Court, Grand Khadis, and President of Customary Courts to N8m, even as it ordered the FG to forthwith, pay N7m to other judges, monthly.

The court directed that the order should be served on the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN.

It equally awarded N1.5m cost against RMAFC, the AGF, and the National Assembly, who were all cited as Defendants in the matter.

The judgment followed a suit that was brought before the court by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Mr. Sebastian Hon.

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