The Chief Justice of the Nigeria (CJN) earns more than the Vice President and the Senate President, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RAMFAC) said yesterday.
The commission also stated that the Justices of the Supreme Court earn higher than Senators while the Chief Judges in the states earn higher than the state lawmakers.
RAMFAC Commissioner for Kano State Farouk Abubakar shed light on the remuneration of jurists at the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) conference in Abuja.
The RAMFAC revelation contradicts the widely-held view that political office holders are better paid than justices and judges.
Abubakar hinted that judicial officers and political office holders are projected to benefit from the proposed 114 percent pay rise, being recommended by the commission.
At the conference, the association sought pay rise for CJN, Chief Judges, magistrates and other judicial officers.
According to NBA, the resolve to push for a review of judicial officers’ remuneration stemmed from the fact that besides being poorly paid, access to justice by Nigerians may be affected, considering the prevailing harsh economic realities.
During its breakout session in Abuja, panelists on the ‘Overview of NBA’s Memo to RMAFC on judicial remuneration’ said the peculiarities of the judicial officers made it imperative that their remuneration should reflect the circumstances governing their role in safeguarding justice for all.
The NBA has also urged the Federal Government to establish a separate body that will determine the remuneration of judicial officers The lead speaker at the session, Olawale Fapohunda (SAN), former Ekiti State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, said the NBA had a report on the subject that took into consideration all the peculiarities of the sector about the economic realities.
He said the association has recommended 200 percent increment in the judicial officer’s remuneration.
Fapohunda said the NBA took into consideration the need to ensure judicial independence and the effects of its suppression under any guise on the society before pushing for the review.
He said the need to properly remunerate the judicial officer led to a comprehensive comparative study of some African countries, including South Africa, Ethiopia, and Ghana, adding that it was discovered that the Nigerian judicial officers are the least paid.
Fapohunda said the NBA will continue to engage critical stakeholders towards the realization of the review.
However, Abubakar explained that while the NBA studied judges’ remunerations from six African countries, the RAMFAC obtained information from countries beyond Africa before action was taken on the subject.
He added that the prevailing remuneration package of the judicial officer did not suggest that government was oblivious of their importance to society.
He said judges earn more than political office holders, adding that the commission has proposed an increment of 114 percent in line with the new extant salary structure.
He said though former President Mohammadu Buhari could not consider the report, the commission would seize the opportunity to further review the remunerations to take into consideration the petrol subsidy removal and other economic changes.
The Rivers State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor urged other states to emulate the example of Rivers.
He said the independence of the judiciary cannot be guaranteed without financial independence.
Adangor said former Governor Nyesom Wike believed that judicial officers of Rivers State origin, either by birth or marriage, were motivated, adding that federal workers were given special recognition and incentives.
He said comprehensive financial security, with enhanced remuneration package, secured accommodation, and enduring transportation scheme as well as a very good working environment were provided for state judges.
He said these incentives made the judicial officers to carry out their duties without apprehension.
The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Anthony Ojukwu (SAN), said judicial officers are entitled to wages that will consider their peculiarities.
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He said fair wages for them are important because of their importance to society, adding that if they are exposed, society will be endangered.
Ojukwu said: “Today, the greatest challenge facing the Judiciary and the legal profession as a whole relates to allegations of corruption against judicial officers.
“This impinges directly ability of the judiciary and the legal profession towards ‘getting it right’ to dispense justice impartially and independently.
“It is my position that a practical approach to ‘getting it right’ in dealing with alleged cases of rampant corruption will be to pay judicial officers “fair wages” in line with the recommendation of NBA to RMAFC”.