Minister of Justice, NJC, NBA, others support a 300% increase in bailiffs’ salaries and allowances

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of Economy, Mr Wale Edun, and the National Judicial Council ( NJC) have expressed their support for the proposed 300 percent increase in the salaries and allowances of judicial officers.

Key stakeholders including the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), National Industrial Court (NIC), National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC) and Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) also support the proposal.

The proposal is included in the Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances) Bill, 2024, which is before the Senate.

The bill, which had already passed its second reading, was dissected on Monday at a public hearing organized by the Senate Committee on Justice, Human Rights/Legal Affairs, chaired by Senator Mohammed Monguno in Abuja.

President Bola Tinubu had forwarded the bill to the National Assembly late last year.

Fagbemi, in a leading defense in support of the bill, told the hearing that judicial officers had been paid the same salaries and allowances for almost seventeen years.

He noted that current economic realities have made judicial officers’ remuneration a child’s play, adding that a series of previous attempts to increase judicial officers’ remuneration suffered setbacks.

The AGF stated that while judicial officers continued to maintain the same remuneration package, the salaries of civil servants and political office holders were increased four times in 2000, 2005, 2007 and 2011 respectively.

Fagbemi further said: “The immediate NJC proposal for a 300% increase was motivated by: the prevailing economic reality of rising inflation trends and core inflation, creating an enabling working environment that brings about professional development and efficiency for judicial officers.

“Based on the foregoing and the expressed concerns of His Excellency, the President, on matters such as improving the prosperity and standards in the judiciary, promoting the capacity, independence and confidence in the Nigerian judiciary; I recommended the NJC proposal to the President for consideration on October 19, 2023.

“On October 20, 2023, the President granted unprecedented approval for a 300% increase in judicial officers’ pay.

“Consequently, the President directed the RMAFC to revise its previous recommendation of May 2023 to reflect the NJC proposal.

“This culminated in the current bill forwarded to the National Assembly to promote a key component of the President’s renewed hope for a better Nigeria that deepens judicial reforms to promote sustainable socio-economic growth.”

Several stakeholders simply adopted Fagbemi’s position, which they believed adequately reflected the issues.

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In addition to an annual incremental increase in their wages, the judicial officers also recommended a periodic review of salaries and allowances every four years to reflect changing economic realities.

“I would like to note that the Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances, etc.) Bill 2024 is quite innovative. In addition to the increase in basic salary, certain peculiarities of the administrative structure and functioning of the judiciary were also taken into account.

“This bill will provide adequate and proportionate compensation that will guarantee the independence and integrity of the judiciary,” the AGF added.

In his speech, Ariwoola, who was represented by the Chief Justice of Borno State, Justice Kashim Zanna, said there had been a “tumultuous depreciation” in the purchasing power of judicial officers since their wages were last increased in 2007.

Zanna explained: “As a simple illustration, the US dollar exchange rate was 130.25 at the time the salary was set in 2007 and this exchange rate can be found on page eleven of the June 2009 RMAFC assessment report, which is the source of the exchange rate at the time it was determined.

“For example, since 2007, when salaries were set, a judge’s monthly gross pre-tax salary (661,738) divided by 130.25 is today equal to $5,080 divided by only 1,500, so $441.

“A salary of $5,080 has only now dropped to $441 when it was established. In today’s terms the value is equal to 7,000,600 2789.”

The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of Economy, Mr Wale Edun, said he could not agree more with the stakeholders’ presentations.

He added: “So I’m very, very happy to have been part of this opening ceremony, listen to the AGF, and I commend it. He is the authority on government law.

“I cannot help but join him in commending this bill and calling for its speedy passage for the benefit of the judiciary in particular and Nigerians in general.”