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Worried that their budget allocation has not increased for four years, the Supreme Court justices protested to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad.
In the protest conveyed to the head of the judiciary via a letter, the judges complained that the lack of welfare had hampered their work.
The Supreme Court has been receiving N110 billion a year since 2018 despite increasing in size and responsibilities.
It was learned that its annual budget was not always regularly funded, resulting in the non-provision of essential services for judges.
Unable to bear this any longer, the judges protested to the CJN.
In response, Judge Muhammad told his colleagues that he had been accountable and transparent.
A source at the Supreme Court said the issues, which went beyond the CJN, included a delay in cash support from the Supreme Court’s budget.
Disturbed by the tension between the CJN and justice, the emir of Lafia, judge Sidi Bage Muhammad floundered.
After a few shuttles, the retired Bage successfully negotiated peace over the weekend with a resolution to bring in the executive arm to address the challenges facing Supreme Court justices.
The investigation revealed that tension in the Supreme Court had been simmering since March 23, when the CJN formed a social welfare committee.
On March 24, the committee submitted a list of demands from the Supreme Court justices to the CJN.
The issues raised by the judges are the non-replacement of poor quality vehicles; housing problem; lack of medicine at the Supreme Court clinic; supply of epileptic electricity to the Supreme Court; increase in the electricity tariff; no increase in quotas for diesel; lack of Internet services at residences and rooms.
Others are internal issues, including the failure to sign the Amended Rules of Court for almost three years; sudden cessation of two to three workshops and training abroad per year for judges; no provision of qualified legal assistants.
A source said: “On March 24, 2022, the welfare committee submitted a report requesting the revision of the electricity allowance due to the increase in the electricity tariff across the country.
“The Welfare Committee has also submitted our request for diesel allowance, due to the epileptic electricity supply, the astronomical increase in the price of diesel and the fact that the judges need electricity to work at residence.
“Recently, the Chief Registrar served the judges with an internal memo stating that electricity would be supplied to the court between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily, due to a lack of diesel.
“The implication of this memo is that the judges must complete their work and close by 4 p.m. With all due respect, this is the peak of the court’s degeneration; it is the height of decadence, and the evident proof of the absence of probity and moral rectitude.
“This act alone portends an imminent danger to the survival of this court and of the judiciary as an institution, which is gradually dying out. The judiciary is an arm of the government.
“The Supreme Court of Nigeria, like the Presidential Villa and the National Assembly, is the seat of the judiciary as an organ of government. The implication of the memo is that this branch of government is potentially shut down. May God never allow this day.
“The committee has also requested the reinstatement of our monthly internet allowance, as we require uninterrupted internet service in order to have access to online documents to write our judgments.
“With regard to the justice vehicles, several need to be replaced, while the new judges have not received their full complement of vehicles to date. Additionally, some of the vehicles provided to the judges are either refurbished or substandard.
Another Supreme Court source gave more insight into the challenges she is facing.
The source said that apart from the welfare issues, there were issues affecting the performance of the judges including not signing the Amended Court Rules for almost three years.
Judges have complained about the lack of opportunities to attend two or three trainings per year.
The source added: “The state of health care in court has deteriorated. The Supreme Court clinic has become a mere consultation clinic. Medicines are not available to treat minor ailments. There is a general lack of concern for judges in need of immediate or emergency medical intervention.
“The Rules of the Court are the immediate tools used by the judges to bring justice to the users of the Court. The amended Rules of Court have been sitting for nearly three years now, awaiting signature. We firmly believe that the new rules will contribute to the rapid dispensation of justice.
“At the meeting, we also discussed training. In the past, judges were appointed to participate in two or three workshops and training abroad per year with an accompanying person for reasons of age.
“Judges only attended two workshops in Dubai and Zanzibar. They did not have the privilege of traveling with accompanying persons as was the practice. We demand to know what happened to our training funds.
“The National Assembly has increased the budgetary allocation for the judiciary. We find it strange that despite the upward revision of our budget allocation, the court cannot respond to our legitimate rights.
“Another issue discussed was the provision of qualified paralegals. We are aware that even lower courts provide legal assistants to their judges and justices. The Supreme Court, in addition to being the highest court in the land, is a political court.
“We are dealing with a variety of complex legal issues of national importance with the addition of time-limited cases between our regular hearings. We need qualified legal assistants in order to offer the best of ourselves.
A Supreme Court official, who spoke to our correspondent off the cuff after a week-long investigation, said the problems were not the fault of the CJN.
He said, “There were issues between the CJN and the Supreme Court justices, but they were resolved by a former court judge, Justice Sidi Bage Muhammadu I, who is the Emir of Lafia.
“In fact, the last of these peace meetings was held last Thursday and a permanent reconciliation sealed on Friday. Bage shuttled many times until he brokered peace.
“The challenges are related to the delay in funding the Supreme Court budget. It’s one thing to have the budget on paper; it’s another thing to turn the funds over to the court. The release takes some time.
“We are all aware of the economic problem facing the country. The executive cannot distribute the money it does not have.
“Again, the Supreme Court has been receiving N110 billion since 2018 without any increase. Judges’ salaries and allowances were last reviewed in 2017. Where is the fault of the CJN?
“Regarding the electricity supply, it is a general problem in the country. Even at that, the CJN assures that the supply is available from morning until 6 p.m.
“The high cost of diesel is not the making of the CJN, which is not even in charge of coordinating the basic needs of the court. We may have to adjust the budget to increase the judges’ diesel allowance. It also means that some services will suffer.
On accommodation, the source added, “I think what happened was that some judges were not comfortable with the accommodation provided to them for security reasons. I think every judge has a place now.
Asked about the outcome of the peace meeting, the official said, “The CJN will take action on the court settlement; we will adjust the budget to meet the comfort of the judges and there will henceforth be regular consultations on the functioning of the court to avoid misunderstandings of this nature.
“I think the CJN and the Supreme Court justices are now on the same page. Those of us in the administration will implement any resolutions agreed to by the parties.

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