JudiciaryNews

Proposed out of court settlement in suit seeking judges salary review crumbles

By Deborah Onyofufeke
The proposed peace talk, to settle the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), National Judicial Council (NJC) and the National Assembly out of court, in a suit seeking a general review of Judge’s salary came crashing on Wednesday

The suit which was instituted at the National industrial court by Chief Sebastian Hon(SAN) could not be settled on June 6 as planned as the National Assembly (NASS) who is a defendant in the suit and the party who proposed an out-of-court settlement, could not rally parties involved together for the peace talk

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The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, who was supposed to be a party to the out-of-court settlement, filed a counter-affidavit and preliminary objection before the court, requesting the court to dismiss the case, as he held that Sebastian Hon, who instituted the case lacked the right to do so

As today’s proceedings commenced, Counsel to AGF, Ekene Elodimuo confirmed to the National Industrial Court in Abuja that his client (AGF) is desirous of going with the court hearing of the suit and has filed necessary processes.

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The National Judicial Council likewise engaged the services of Kunle Adegoke SAN, to present its position in the determination of the suit.

At the proceedings, the presiding Judge, Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae was informed by Chief Adgboyega Awomolo SAN, who stood for the plaintiff that the AGF had served him his counter affidavit and preliminary objection indicating that the June 6 proposed out of court settlement is no longer feasible

The senior lawyer asked the court to allow him proceed with hearing of the originating Summons of his client.

However counsel to NJC, Kunle Adegoke SAN, pleaded with the Judge to grant him a short adjournment to enable him file necessary processes in respect of the matter.

He informed the court that the NJC briefed him in less than 24 hours ago and that he needed time to study the originating summons and file his response.

Counsel for the plaintiff (Awomolo) did not oppose to request for adjournment but however pleaded with the court to allow hearing in the matter on Monday June 27.

In a brief ruling Justice Obaseki-Osaghae granted the adjournment request by the NJC but fixed June 28 for hearing of the suit.

The proceedings was attended by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Olumide Akpata, Femi Falana SAN, and over 30 Senior Advocates of Nigeria SANs.

Apart from NASS, AGF NJC, other defendant in the suit is Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) but was not represented in court by any legal practitioner.

Plaintiff in the suit, Chief Sebastine Hon SAN who instituted the case is praying the court to compel the defendants (AGF, NJC NASS) to increase the salaries and allowances of judges in Nigeria.

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In a supporting affidavit to the originating summons, plaintiff stated that as a legal practitioner, “who has practised 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 Nigeria – 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.

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At the proceedings of June 6, the National Assembly had asked the court to allow an out of court settlement in the suit .

NASS through its counsel, Mr. Charles Yoila, told Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae, that the institution is interested in an out of court settlement policy because of the nature of the matter.

The counsel had pleaded with the court to grant an adjournment so as to enable parties in the matter sit on a round table for discussion for an amicable resolution.

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