Dispute Over Welfare: CJN meets aggrieved Supreme Court Justices

…. okays payment of allowances, restores internet services

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, on Tuesday, admitted that he received a protest letter from 14 serving justices of the Supreme Court, wherein they expressed their displeasure over the current state of affairs in the court.

The Justices had accused the CJN of ignoring their repeated demand for improved welfare, despite the upward review of the budgetary allocation of the Judiciary.

Aside from allegation that accommodation was not provided for new Justices that were sworn in since 2020, the aggrieved jurists, accused the CJN of not allowing them to attend foreign trainings, adding that vehicles that were supplied to them were either refurbished or substandard.

They decried that the Chief Registrar of the court had in an internal memo that was served on them, maintained that electricity would only be supplied to the Court between 8am and 4pm daily, owing to lack of diesel, implying that they must leave office before the stated time.

“We DEMAND to know what has become of our training funds, have they been diverted, or is it a plain denial? Your Lordship may also remember that the National Assembly has increased the budgetary allocation of the Judiciary.

“We find it strange that in spite of the upward review of our budgetary allocation, the Court cannot cater for our legitimate entitlements. This is unacceptable!”, the protest letter read in part.

Meanwhile, the CJN, in a statement he issued through his media aide, Mr. Ahuraka Isah, on Tuesday, said he has held a meeting with the aggrieved justices to assuage their grievances.

Justice Mohammad said it was not true that he refused to carry all the justices along in the administration of the apex court, saying he has not only restored internet services at residences and chambers of all the justices, but equally okayed the payment of some of their outstanding allowances.

The statement, titled “Re: State Of Affairs In The Supreme Court And Demand By Justices Of The Supreme Court”, read:

“The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammad would wish to confirm receipt of letter written and addressed to him by his brother Justices of the Supreme Court Bench.

“Judges in all climes are to be seen and not heard, and that informed why the CJN refrained from joining issues until a letter, said to be personal, is spreading across the length and breadth of the society. This was akin to dancing naked at the market square by us with the ripple effect of the said letter

“The Supreme Court definitely does not exist outside its environment, it is also affected by the economic and socio-political climate prevailing in the country.

“Besides that, the Apex Court has to a larger extent, been living to its constitutional responsibility.

“When a budget is made, it contains two sides, that’s the recurrent and the capital, yet all the two are broken down into items.

“The Federal Government releases the budget based on the budget components. And it’s an offence to spend the money meant for one item for another.

“Take for instance, the Supreme Court budgeted this year to re-roof and rehabilitate its complex built over 30 years ago and that is being done.

“The work on the extension of the complex is near completion, the esthetic lawns and cleanness of the perimeters are being well kept, and security and water supply are adequately provided for his brother Justices in their offices and residences.

“During the period of pandemic, a profound and extra-care was maintained to avoid causalities among them as well as the staff generally. It would have amounted to an act of irresponsibility to divert money meant for the above for otherwise.

“The accusation so far, in summary is that more or all ought to have been done and not that nothing has been done; which is utopian in the contemporary condition of our country.

“Before eight new Justices were appointed in 2020 onto the Apex Court bench, there was no additional budget to provide new chambers with equipped library, legal assistance, residential accommodations and logistics for them.

“The Apex Court has to make do with the resources at its disposal to meet their needs over time.

“All the Justices of this Court has at least a legal assistance, except some may opt for more.

“One of the CJN’s legal assistance (now Justice Aina) was appointed to Abuja FCT High Court last month, while another (Barr Ramatu) died three months back.

“Generally the Judiciary is looking up to recruitment of more legal assistance and other supporting staff this year.

“Besides, two Supreme Court Justices died within the period under consideration.

“Both the four retirees and the two departed cost the court some funds in the forms of gratuities and allowances.

“Two weeks ago, eight Supreme Court Justices were nominated for a workshop in London as the court cannot take all of them there at once otherwise the job would suffer. They would be going in batches.

“Accommodations are being gradually provided for the few that are yet to get.

“There is none of the Apex Court Justices without SUV and back up cars. If any of them were purchased but refurbished, the external and internal auditors are here in the court to take those that bought them up over it.

“The high cost of electricity tariff and diesel are national problem. The Chief Registrar might have budgeted for N300 per litre but diesel is now selling for over N700 per litre and therefore has to find a way around it without even bringing it to the attention of the CJN. But there is no way the generator would be put off if the Court is sitting.

“The amendment of court rules is on the process, it has to be critically reviewed to avoid conflict with the constitution and other extant laws.

“Not all the CJN has reviewed the rules in the past. Within the three years his brother Justices mentioned came the pandemic and the judiciary workers’ strike.

“The internet services have been restored to Justices’ residences and chambers, just as some allowances have been paid to them.

“The CJN held a meeting with his brother Justices last Thursday and another one is due to hold this week.

“The general public should be rest assured that there’s no hostility or adverse feelings amongst the Justices of the Supreme Court, as everyone is going about his normal duty”.

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