the House of Representatives has given up on a motion seeking to address deteriorating working conditions for judicial officials.
The motion, introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Onofiok Luke (PDP, Akwa-Ibom), sought to increase the judiciary’s budget and increase the pay of judicial officials.
Mr. Onofiok’s sentences said that the House should “urge the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to revise upwards the pay of judicial officers in accordance with current economic realities;
“Also urge the federal government to increase the budget allocation of the Judiciary for the next fiscal year and provide Special Intervention Funds for the development of the Judiciary.”
The legislator informed his colleagues that the last time the RMAFC reviewed the salaries of civil servants, the official exchange rate was N117.74 per $1, while the naira has depreciated considerably.
However, the motion failed, as some members advocated a holistic review of civil servant salaries.
Deputy Spokesperson Idris Wase said the economic factors highlighted by the motion’s sponsor affect all civil servants, adding that the review should not be done in isolation.
“I think this particular item doesn’t just affect judicial officials, maybe because they yelled now. I don’t think it’s right that we have to wait each time until people write a letter of complaint and there’s an outcry before we start doing the right thing.”
Mr. Wase introduced an amendment for RMAFC to review the compensation of all civil servants.
“My amendments will be for the RMAFC to review and analyze all the organizations scheduled under its supervision. They have the responsibility to review their wages. That is my amendment,” Wase said.
The motion was seconded and approved when put to a vote by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.
Following the amendment, some committee chairs wanted to join the resolution.
Ifeanyi Momah (PDP, Anambra) tabled an amendment to include the FCT Judicial Committee in the motion.
Before the ruling, the vice president intervened that with his amendment, the matter is not only judicial, therefore, the relevant committees must handle the resolution.
“The consequence of my amendment covers all parties, including elected officials. I said all the institutions under that scheduled agency because the compensation that he (Mr. Onofiok) was referring to, first, he was citing a factor (exchange rate) that was not only made to that agency (Supreme Court), but which includes other agencies and the khadis, the grand khadis, the ministers, governors and others. It covers all of that,” Wase said.
Onofiok, who seemed unsatisfied with the amendment, warned colleagues that there is a “danger” in holistic review pay.
“The danger is that the regulation or legislation that deals with the remuneration of judicial officials is linked to the remuneration of political office holders.
“Any attempt by us now to start pushing an agenda for our own review would be seen as politicians wanting to increase their salaries, which would have covered what we are trying to do, which is to ask for increased judicial salaries,” he said.
He urged his colleagues to bury the idea of a holistic review until the legislation governing the compensation of civil servants is dismantled.
Mr. Onofiok told his colleagues that there is a proposed amendment to the Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances) Act, which will address the issue.
Despite the explanation, the vice president stood his ground.
He said lawmakers should not use a “symptomatic approach” to address the issue.
In view of the discussion, Mr. Onofiok supported the Speaker’s suggestion that he should withdraw the motion and consult further.
The motion was denied by Mr. Onofiok.
SOS cry from the judges of the Supreme Court
PREMIUM TIMES had reported that 14 Supreme Court justices wrote a letter of protest to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, lamenting the sorry state of affairs at the court.
The justices led by the second-longest-serving Supreme Court justice, Olukayode Ariwoola, listed the issues to include: vehicles, electricity rates, diesel supply, internet services to (judges’) residences and chambers, and supply of electricity for epileptics to court.
The CJN had addressed some of the concerns raised by the judges in a letter. However, the Senate had decided to intervene in the matter.