For reasons of the independence of the judicial arm of Government, Section 84 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, provides that the remuneration, salaries and allowances payable to judges of Superior Courts of record in Nigeria, as mentioned in subsection (4) of the Section, shall be a charge upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.
What this means is that salaries and emoluments of Judicial Officers of the category mentioned are paid from the Fund, through the National Judicial Council, NJC.
Curiously, the retirement benefits of these Judges were left out and, for States Judicial Officers, are paid by the States. This has created monstrous difficulties for retired judicial officers of the States. This is because most States do not pay the gratuities, pensions and other severance benefits of retired judicial officers. Imo State, for instance is owing retired Judges for upwards of one-year pensions, and before then, had forced them to accept less than what is due to them, in violation of Section 84 (3) which provides that such payments shall not be altered to their disadvantage after appointment. In Anambra State in December 2016, retired Justices of the State High Court had to sue the State Government at the National Industrial Court for non-payment of their severance gratuities, pension and arrears of pension.
If the appointment, salaries and allowances for both judicial and state judicial officers are routed through the National Judicial Council, why are severance benefits excluded?
This situation leaves much to be desired. These Honourable men and women, who have invested their youth and strength in the hallowed responsibility of judicial service, are left to eat crumbs at their retirement, and having lost the right to practice law after retirement by virtue of Section 292 (2) of the Constitution, the only means of subsistence after retirement are their retirement benefits. When this is not paid as and when due, the result is that many of them are dying out of misery and hopelessness. Which is tragic.
What this does to the psyche of service judicial officers is better imagined: make hays while the sun shines. This portends grave implications for the integrity of the judiciary, the anti-corruption drive of the government and the dispensation of justice generally.
- Amend Section 84 (2) of the Constitution to, in addition to salaries and allowances, include also retirement benefits.
- Insert a new sub-section (4) in Section 2 of the Pension Rights of Judges Act, 2004 to provide for the pension and other retirement benefits of Judicial Officers as enumerated in Section 84 (4) of the Constitution to be paid by the National Judicial Council as charged upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.