By Kenneth Atavti
Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), National Judicial Council (NJC) and the National Assembly (NASS) have been dragged before a Federal High Court in Abuja over poor wages being paid to judges.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN, Chief Sebastiane Hon, who sued them, is praying the court to compel them, alongside the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), to increase the salaries and allowances of judges in the country.
The suit by the senior lawyer is marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/595/2022 and filed in his capacity as a concerned legal practitioner in Nigeria.
The court action has the National Assembly, the RMAFC, the AGF and NJC as defendants.
In a supporting affidavit to the originating summons, Hon stated that as a legal practitioner, “who has practiced in all the levels of courts in Nigeria, I know that poor pay for judicial officers is seriously affecting the quality of judgments and rulings those officers are delivering and the discharge of other functions associated with their offices.”
He argued that the current economic reality in the country requires that the salaries and allowances of the nation’s judges be urgently improved upon.
The plaintiff noted that the highest-paid judicial officer in the country – the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) – currently earns about N3.4 million per annum, far below what is earned by such an officer in other countries.
Hon, who quoted what all judicial officers currently earn as provided under Part IIB of the Schedule to the Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances, etc) Amendment Act 2008, said the paltry sums have discouraged him from aspiring to become a judge.
He noted that it is about 14 years now since the salaries and allowances of judges were last reviewed upward in 2008 despite the loss of value of the naira vis-à-vis other global currencies like the US dollars, the British pound sterling and the European Union (EU) euro, etc.
“As of November 2008 when the amended Act was in force, the exchange rate between the naira and the US dollar was N117.74 to USD1”, he said.
Sebastiane Hon added that “even foreigners who have been hired from time to time to coach Nigeria’s national football teams earn higher than Nigeria’s judicial officers.”