President Bola Tinubu has directed the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to urgently evolve ways to improve the welfare of the nation’s judicial officers.
Tinubu, who assured the Judiciary of the Federal Government’s commitment to addressing the challenges confronting the arm of government, advocated for the appointment of Justices of the appellate court from outside the bench.
He cautioned against undue criticism of the Judiciary particularly in relation to decisions on political cases.
The President spoke in Abuja on Monday during the opening session of the all-Nigerian judge’s conference of the superior courts,
President Tinubu, whose speech was read by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, said: “I have directed the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission to review its previous unacceptable recommendation of a 114 percent increase in the remuneration of judicial officers and come up with a more realistic rate that will reflect the present economic reality.
“I am optimistic that the process will be concluded as soon as possible, making the Judiciary independent as I have done elsewhere. I assure you that it will be done here, just be a little patient.”
While cautioning against undue criticism of the third arm of government, Tinubu said: ““While the Nigerian Judiciary is not immune from certain challenges, it has, however, surmounted these limitations to creditably retain the status of both the last hope of the common man and the bastion of rule of law and democracy.
“The Nigerian Judiciary has indeed evolved from the colonial days, through the rich history of contemporary worthy status today. While there may be misgivings here and there, we cannot begin to imagine what our country would have been subjected to if there was no Judiciary.
“I am proud of the accomplishment of our Judiciary in the cause of nation-building, both locally and on the global scene.
“Through a gamut of landmark judgments, the Judiciary has continued to maintain the cause of the rule of law in Nigeria and strengthens our democratic processes and institutions.
“I wish to observe that in the cause of demonstrating this commitment to the advancement of the rule of law and democracy, especially in political and electoral cases, the Judiciary has come under myopic criticism and attacks.
“On many occasions, the judiciary has come to the rescue by intervening to safeguard democratic processes and preserve or restore the wishes of the electorates.
“The Judiciary should not be blamed for the failing of the political class. We, as actors, must learn not to portray or analyse the Judiciary from the narrow prism that is solely based on our political interests only.
“As a patriotic citizen and the President, I am not oblivious of the challenges hampering the commitment of the Judiciary to deepening the rule of law and democracy.
“Some of the challenges as identified by the National Judicial Council, include; inefficiency and gaps within the process of appointment of judicial officers; lack of transparency and accountability in judicial process and administration of justice.
“The need to improve and sustain the capacity of superior courts to promote and protect the rule of law; delay in justice delivery; the perception that the Judiciary may not be able to sustain its independence and concerns about the quality of judgments and inadequacy of resources needed for the judiciary to provide efficient administration of justice in the 21st century.
“One of the cardinal items on our renewed hope agenda under my leadership is our commitment to drive the judiciary to achieve sustainable socio-economic growth and investment, facilitated by the rule of law, as well as to reverse the negative rating and address the challenges militating against judicial development.
“Because the Judiciary is self-regulating, we expect the Judiciary to demonstrate that charity indeed, begins at home.
“Like Caeser’s wife, the Judiciary must remain above board. The Biennial All Judges Conference is an avenue to interrogate and chart a way forward for the judiciary to fully attain its pride of place in promoting socio-economic and political development in the country.
“It is trite that knowledge is power. I therefore, charge the institute as the intellectual arm of the judiciary to ensure that the Nigeria judiciary does not falter in its commitment to the cause of nation-building and to ensure that the national judicial policy is holistically implemented and kept in tune with global best practices.
“Our economic transformation is not just in the hands of the Executive alone, the Judiciary has a significant role to play in this transformation journey.
“It is the Judiciary alone that can build the confidence of investors that commercial disputes can be resolved fairly and speedily and in a manner that preserves and improves their investment.
“Such a realization alone will significantly improve our position to be an investment destination. I seize this opportunity to make one sentence on the appointment of private legal practitioners into our appellate courts.”
The President urged the National Judicial Council (NJC) to consider broadening the scope of appointment of judicial officers for the appellate courts.
“Considering the constitutional provisions in practice in other jurisdictions, I am of the strong view that to further strengthen our appellate court, qualified, experienced and diligent private legal practitioners should be considered for appointment to both the Appeal and Supreme Court, as the nation will benefit from this.
“I renew my commitment and affirm that I will discharge all my obligations to the judiciary regardless. I look forward to contributing my quota to the improvement of the welfare of judicial officers,” he said.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola said although judicial officers are not flawless, they are doing their best.
Justice Ariwoola said: “Although as judicial officers, we must constantly strive to attain a high standard of excellence and ensure that the strength of our character is at best, unimpeachable, one fact which is glaring but ironically overlooked is the fact that judges are humans too.
“What this implies is that we are neither flawless nor precluded from making occasional errors.”
The CJN said the conference allows the Judiciary to assess the progress it made throughout the year and to evaluate how well it was able to discharge the onerous task placed on it as the arbiter of justice and custodian of the rule of law.
“Consequently, as we take stock, it is of utmost importance that we do so dispassionately and objectively to enable us to effectively achieve the second purpose of the Conference which entails mapping out strategies, cross-fertilizing ideas and eliciting definitive decisions, necessary for steering the Judiciary forward in the coming year,” he said.
The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Nyesom Wike said the Federal Government has approved the construction of a new Court of Appeal complex in Abuja, which he said must be completed within 15 months.
Wike said houses will also be constructed for both judges of the Abuja High Court and Magistrates.
Wike added: “Judges of the Federal High Court in Abuja and the Court of Appeal will also be given new quarters.”
The Administrator of the National Judicial Institute (NJI), Justice Salisu Abdullahi, said he was optimistic that the conference, which has the theme: ‘Strengthening Judicial Commitments To The Rule Of Law And Democracy,’ will afford judges and justices “the opportunity to recharge, recalibrate and re-strategize.’
“The All-Nigerian Judges’ Conference of the Superior Courts is a tactical and all-important engagement which holds significant purposes for all and sundry.
“For My Lords, it is first and foremost a reunion of sorts since it presents an opportunity to come together as a unified whole.
“Accordingly, this convergence aids a three-pronged agenda which I like to call the three A’s- Acclaim, Appraise and Advance,” the NJI Administrator said.