From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The federal government has been urged to obey the judgement of the National Industrial Court (NIC), which raised the monthly salary of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to N10 million.
A professor of law and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Prof Epiphany Azinge, throwing his weight behind the judgment, insisted that an increase in remuneration of Judicial officers will discourage alleged acts of corruption among them.
Prof Azinge, who is the former Director General of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, NIALS, and a member of the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, LPPC, spoke on the sidelines of a press conference the 1980 set of the Nigerian Law School held to outline activities for their forthcoming 42nd reunion anniversary.
He disclosed that the set, which produced many judges and notable figures, including the Court of Appeal President, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, has earmarked N5 million it will donate to the Nigerian Law School.
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Explaining his position further, Prof Azinge contended that the new salary structure the court established for judicial officers in the country was at par with what their counterparts earn in other African countries.
“Personally, I do not see anything outrageous or humongous about the CJN earning N10 million a month.
The argument has always been that of benchmarking. Up till today, the salary of the legislature is still wrapped in secrecy.
“But we know that when all that gets to them every month are added together, including their allowances, it will still be more than what the CJN is expected to earn.
Besides, if we convert the said money and compare it with what judges in other climes, like in South Africa, collect every month, you will see that it is the same
“What the court has done through its judicial pronouncement is to give the Salary and Wages Commission the tune for further negotiation and engagement.
Let it be on the record that the Judiciary deserves the best.
“You cannot be accusing judges of corruption and still starve them of funds. Pay them accordingly and make them comfortable and see if the issue of corruption will not be a thing of the past,” Prof Azinge stated.
Speaking on the activities line up for the reunion, he disclosed that there will be a lecture at the Nigerian Law School, Bwari, Abuja, on Tuesday to be delivered by a Justice of the Court of Appeal, Justice Goodluck, on ‘Two sides of the Courtroom: the Bench and the Bar.”
On the N5 million donations to the Law School, Prof Azinge explained that the money will be fixed in an endowment fund.
“Best female and male graduating students will receive money from the fund every year.
“We have also decided to kickstart the program with a visit to the Law School, where a lecture will be delivered by Justice Goodluck Olasumbo of the Court of Appeal on a topic tagged ‘Two sides of the court – The Bar and the Bench’.
“All the events lined up for the reunion will be chaired by the Acting CJN, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola.
“The whole Judiciary, especially those at the helm of affairs will be in attendance,” he added.
On the quality of lawyers produced in recent times, Prof Azinge said: “In my class at the Law School, we were only about 500 when we graduated and that was from five law faculties only.
“But now you see over 5,000 people graduating from Law School twice a year. Can you compare the tutelage that 500 people got with that of over 10,000?
“Then, we were less than 100 students in some Institutions. You will observe then that the teacher/student relationship was closer and tighter.
“But now the disconnection is too much. The challenges are there no doubt, but kudos to the people in the Law School.
“For me, the problem is not even what happens in Law School, but what happens in law faculties.
“We need more lawyers but we need quality lawyers. There are so many regulations that can still be made here and there, both at the Jamb level, the law faculty and the law school.
“There are measures that should be put in place to ensure that the quality of lawyers we produce should be one that we will be proud of.”
On her part, the former boss at the Federal Judiciary Service Commission (FJSC), Mrs Bilkisu Bashir, who is Chairman of the planning committee, disclosed that out of about 540 students that graduated from the Law School in 1980, 101 of them have died.
Other members of the reunion planning committee of the set include Mr Chuma Mbonu, Mariam Titi Kawu, Chief Mrs Rona Nwamaka Dimude and Ifeanyinwa Udokanma.