Justice Not For Sale To Highest Bidder, Malami Warns Judges

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The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister Of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has warned that the Nigerian justice sector must not be moderated by the purchasing power of individuals or institutions.

 

Malami issued the caution at the 2021 maiden legal year ceremony of the Court Of Appeal held at its headquarters on Monday in Abuja.

The AGF, who attended the event alongside other justices of the court and relevant stakeholders, advised that when people bid for favourable judgements, the effect from such constitutes a great disservice to the nation and to the common man.

His comments come after several judges of state high courts were summoned by the National Judicial Council for giving conflicting orders on the chairmanship of the Peoples Democratic Party, among others.

The AGF commended the Appeal Court justices who, according to him, are standing their ground and “ensuring that justice is not trivialized to a common bargain.”

He urged everyone to be mindful of the poor who solely rely on judicial intervention to get their rights protected.

“I hereby also extend a call of solidarity, reverence and respect for the Courts and Court processes, to all our Learned Distinguished Colleagues here present to ensure that justice is not trivialized to a commodity bargained for and taken by the highest bidder, at the detriment of the indigent who for want of equal bargaining power, wallow in the shadows of judicial neglect,” he said.

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Meanwhile, the President of the court of appeal, Dongban Mensem noted the strides recorded so far but listed certain gray areas that the federal government needed to pay attention to for the furtherance of justice.

One of them is the salary of judges in the country which she said was far lower than what obtains elsewhere.

“The salary structure of judicial officers and staff in Nigeria has consistently ranked poorly when compared to that of the counterparts in other African and Commonwealth countries.

“The Honourable, the Chief Justice of Nigeria’s annual basic salary is N 3,353,972.50 or N 279,497.71 monthly, while other Justices of the Supreme Court and the President of the Court of Appeal earn N2,477,110.00 as basic annual salary or N 206,425.83 monthly. My Brother Justices of the Court of Appeal, earn an annual basic salary of N 1,995,430.18 each or N 166,285.84 monthly, exclusive of benefits and allowances,” Mensem said, adding that South Africa’s high court and labour courts reportedly earns N40.85 million as annual basic salaries.

Mensam held that “no Court can be effective where its infrastructure is poor and its facilities inadequate to meet the ends of justice.”

She also decried the poor state of numerous Appeal Court buildings in the country and raised concerns about meagre budgetary allocation through which the court runs most of its projects.

“It is however necessary to state that the Court of Appeal is plagued with aged, deteriorating houses. The reason is not farfetched. Most of the houses the Justices occupy are in fact older than the Court of Appeal being houses donated by the then regional authorities. These structures are overdue for replacement,” she said.


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