RECALLS THAT sometime around December 2016, Hon. Justice Godwin Ononiba, retired Chief Judge of Anambra State leading 31 other retired Judges, sued the Governor of Anambra State to the National Industrial Court for non-payment of their severance gratuities, their pension and arrears of pension.
WORRIED that the suit above is indicative and a reflection of the depressing plight of retired Judicial Officers, especially Judges of the State High Courts in Nigeria.
AWARE THAT the appointment of Judges of the State High Courts passes through the intermediary of the National Judicial Council, NJC whose recommendation the Governor of a State considers and forwards to the House of Assembly for confirmation.
AWARE THAT the Constitution deliberately placed the salaries of federal and State judicial officers as a first line charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund as a way to secure the independence of the Judiciary and such are paid by or transmitted through the NJC to the necessary sub-authorities.
AWARE THAT the retirement benefits of Federal Judicial Officers are paid by the NJC and, except for a few hiccups, the Council has discharged this role quite promptly.
CURIOUS that while their salaries are routed through the NJC, the retirement benefits of States Judicial Officers of Superior Courts of Record as recognized by Section 6 of the Constitution were left to the States to be paid on their retirement.
DISTURBED THAT this state of affairs has created an anomalous situation where retired State High Court Judges have been left to their fate as State Governments hardly make these payments to the Judges as and when due.
FURTHER DISTURBED THAT this situation leaves much to be desired as these Honourable men and women, who have invested their youth and strength inthe hallowed responsibility of judicial service, are left to eat crumbs at their retirement, and having lost the right to practice law, the result being that many of them are dying out of misery and hopelessness.
WORRIED that the bleak life in retirement of Judicial Officers would tend to nudge serving Judges to make hay while the sun shines and prepare for the rainy day by using their active service period to corruptly secure their retirement as the States do not seem to care for them in retirement.
CONVINCED that with the emphasis on anti-corruption trending in the polity now, addressing the issue of non-payment of retirement benefits of retired Judicial Officers of States will profit the society and the polity more whereby the causal factors of corruption are identified and addressed than allowing a manageable situation get out of control before solutions are proffered.
THE SENATE THEREFORE RESOLVES:
- URGE the National Judicial Council, NJC, to harmonise the payment, as it has done with salaries and emoluments, of retirement benefits of Judicial Officers listed in Section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic in such a way that the Council shall take up the responsibility of effecting the payments.
- Direct the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters to conduct an Investigative Hearing on the issues surrounding the non-payment of severance gratuity, pensions and arrears of other retirement entitlements to retired State Judicial Officers by State Governments in Nigeria and report back to the Senate within four weeks.
- Direct the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters to review the laws impeding the harmonization of the processes and prompt payment of retirement benefits of all Judicial Officers in the Country.
I so move.