A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN has come out in defence of the justices of the supreme court, saying they deserved better salary and welfare.
Ozekhome made the statement against the backdrop of lingering face-off between the justices of the apex court and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, over alleged poor salary and welfare conditions.
In a statement made available to Blueprint, the legal silk described the protest letter as apt, arguing that the entire N110 billion annual allocation meant for the Supreme Court was like a drop of water in an oasis when compared to what their executive arm’s counterpart receive.
The senior Advocate who hailed the justices move further described the 14 serving Justices of the Supreme Court protest of their horrific welfare and deplorable conditions of service to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN ) as ‘unprecedented’ in the 58 years annals of the Supreme Court of Nigeria Nigeria.
He said, “In a world that has since become a global village, the memo leaked. Who did this to this revered institution? Who caused this national rockus and bedlam?
“The CJN, taking the issues seriatim through Isah Ahuraka, his spokesperson, replied inter alia, that the apex court does not exist outside the economic and socio-political environment in white which every the country has found itself. It affects the apex court just as it bites everyone.
“The CJN may be right, based on facts available to him as the head of the third arm of government.However, it must be noted that the entire annual allocation meant for the Supreme Court is like a drop of water in an oasis. That is not all.
“The N110 billion yearly allocation to the Supreme Court has not changed in the last four ( since 2018).This means that every year, in spite of the hyper inflationary trend which has become geometrical and not merely arithmetical, the allocation to the apex court remains static. It also means that since the time when the exchange rate was about N180 to N250 to a dollar, which is today about N612 to the dollar, the apex court ‘s allocation has not changed. It also means that the Justices’ quality of life has thereby been receding, rather than appreciating.
“I do not believe that the CJN was arguing that because the parlous economy affects everybody, the Justices of the Supreme Court should perish. No. He may not have put it quite reassuringly.
“What I expected the CJN to have done is to have balmed their oozing bruises; bandaged their bleeding economic sores and say ‘’Ok, I have heard you loud and clear.I am going to take up your complaints and champion your cause before the executive and legislative arms of government, arms that have turned themselves into rampaging bulldogs.
“As the head of the Judiciary which is the third arm of the government, I will make sure that you have more allocation,your welfare enhanced and your life made better.’’ Sikena.
“It was Alexander Hamilton in his Federalist paper number 78, who once said the Judiciary is the weakest of the three arms of government; and that it has neither purse, nor sword to enforce its judgments.
“Are we going to say that the Judiciary should remain forever in doldrums, trampled upon by the two other arms of government?
“I think not. When I read about the entire annual allocation the Judiciary, I wept.
“My heart bled.The entire allocation is like what some governors in this country simply pocket as security votes and walk away as if nothing has happened. The allocation is less than ¼ of what some ministries have in this country; and we have more than 30 ministries in Nigeria. Yet,we are talking about the head of the whole third arm of government the Supreme Court.
“If you starve Judges and Justices, and you make them believe that they don’t matter and will never have a house to retire to, and some justices of the Supreme Court, in spite of the danger inherent in their job are renting houses inside towns, living amongst people, some of whom have been tried and jailed by these same Judges and Justices, then you are begging corruption to embrace them. You are not even giving them enough protection and security.
“That must apparent apparently why they went so formal by writing that historic letter.
“The CJN must go ahead and take up their grievances and fight it through with the executive arm of government that is holding on to more than 70 per cent of our national resources,with the legislature holding on to the rest.
“I feel very sad that a critical arm of government that is dispensing judgment and justice; that is the sentinel that watches over our fundamental rights, the rule of law and over good governance, is so lacking of funds that it has become the whipping child. So, I expect the CJN to take up this matter with the seriousness and urgency it deserves. The urgency of yesterday.”