Worried that their budgetary allocation has not increased for four years, Justices of the Supreme Court have protested to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice lbrahim Tanko Muhammad.
In the protest conveyed to the head of the Judiciary via a letter, the Justices complained that poor welfare had hindered their job.
The apex court has been receiving N110billion yearly since 2018 despite the increase in its size and responsibilities.
It was learnt that its annual budget was not always regularly cash-backed leading to non-provision of essential services for the Justices.
Unable to bear this anymore, the Justices protested to the CJN.
Responding, Justice Muhammad told his colleagues he had been accountable and transparent.
A source at the apex court said the problems, which were beyond the CJN, included delay in cash backing the budget of the apex court.
Disturbed by the tension between the CJN and the Justices, the Emir of Lafia, Justice Sidi Bage Muhammad has waded in.
After some shuttles, the retired Bage at the weekend succeeded in brokering peace with a resolution to appeal to the Executive arm to address the challenges facing the Supreme Court Justices.
Investigation revealed that the tension at the apex court has been festering since March 23, when the CJN constituted a Welfare Committee.
On March 24, the committee submitted a list of demands by the Supreme Court Justices to the CJN.
The issues raised by the Justices are non-replacement of poor vehicles; accommodation problem; lack of drugs at the Supreme Court clinic; epileptic electricity supply to the Supreme Court; increase in electricity tariff; no increase in the allowances for diesel; lack of Internet services to residences and chambers.
Others are internal problems, including non-signing of amended Rules of Court for almost three years; sudden stoppage of two to three foreign workshops and trainings per annum for Justices; no provision of qualified legal assistants.
A source said: “On the 24th day of March, 2022, the welfare committee submitted a report to request for review of electricity allowance because of the increase in electricity tariff nationwide.
“The welfare committee also submitted our request for diesel allowance, because of the epileptic electricity supply, the astronomical hike in the price of diesel and the fact that Justices require electricity to work at home.
“Recently, the Chief Registrar served Justices with an internal memo, that electricity would be supplied to the court between the hours of 8am and 4pm daily, for lack of diesel.
“The implication of this memo is that the Justices must finish their work and close before 4pm. With all due respect, this is the peak of the degeneration of the court; it is the height of decadence, and clear evidence of the absence of probity and moral rectitude.
“This act alone portends imminent danger to the survival of this court and the Judiciary as an institution, which is gradually drifting to extinction. The Judiciary is an arm of government.
“The Supreme Court of Nigeria, just like the Presidential Villa and the National Assembly, is the seat of the Judiciary as an arm of government. The implication of the memo is that this arm of government is potentially shut down. May God never allow that day.
“The committee also requested for the restoration of our monthly Internet allowance, because we require uninterrupted Internet service in order to have access to materials online to write our judgements.
“With regard to Justice’s vehicles, several are due for replacement, while the new Justices have not received their full complement of vehicles to date. Moreover, some of the vehicles supplied to the Justices are either refurbished or substandard.”
Another source in the apex court gave more insights into the challenges facing it.
The source said that apart from welfare problems, there are issues affecting the performance of the judges, including the non-signing of the amended Rules of Court for almost three years.
The justices complained of lack of opportunities to attend two to three trainings in a year.
The source added: “The state of health care in the court has deteriorated. The Supreme Court clinic has become a mere consulting clinic. Drugs are not available to treat minor ailments. There is general lack of concern for Justices who require immediate or emergency medical intervention.
“The Rules of Court are the immediate tools employed by Justices to dispense Justice to Court users. The amended Rules of Court have been kept for almost three years now, awaiting signature. We strongly believe the new rules will aid speedy dispensation of Justice.
“At the meeting we also discussed training. In the past Justices were nominated to attend two to three foreign workshops and trainings per annum with an accompanying person for reasons of age.
“Justices have only attended two workshops in Dubai and Zanzibar. They were not accorded the privilege of travelling with accompanying persons as was the practice. We demand to know what has become of our training funds.
“The National Assembly has increased the budgetary allocation of the Judiciary. We find it strange that in spite of the upward review of our budgetary allocation, the court cannot cater for our legitimate entitlements.
“Another issue discussed was the provision of qualified legal assistants. We are aware that even lower courts provide legal assistants for their Justices and Judges. The Supreme Court, apart from being the highest court in the land, is a policy court.
“We are confronted with various complex legal issues of national significance with the addition of time bound matters coming in between our regular court sittings. We require qualified legal assistants in order to offer our best.”
An official of the apex court, who spoke with our correspondent off-the-cuff after one week of investigation, said the problems were not the CJN’s fault.
He said: “There were issues between the CJN and the Supreme Court Justices but they have been resolved by a former Justice of the court, Justice Sidi Bage Muhammadu I, who is the Emir of Lafia.
“In fact, the last of such peace meeting was held last Thursday and a permanent reconciliation sealed on Friday. Bage made many shuttles until he brokered peace.
“The challenges are connected with the delay in cash backing the Supreme Court budget. It is one thing to have the budget on paper; it is another thing to release the funds to the court. The release takes some time.
“We are all aware of the economic problem facing the country. The Executive cannot dispense the cash it does not have.
“Again, the Supreme Court has been receiving N110billion since 2018 without any increase. The salaries and allowances of the Justices were last reviewed in 2017. Where is the fault of the CJN?
“Concerning electricity supply, it is a general problem in the country. Even at that the CJN ensures that supply is available from morning till 6pm.
“The high cost of diesel is not the making of the CJN, who is not even in charge of the coordination of the basic needs of the court. We may need to adjust the budget to increase the diesel allowance of the Justices. It also means, some services will suffer.”
On accommodation, the source added: “I think what happened was that some Justices were not comfortable with the accommodation provided for them for security reasons. I think every Justice has accommodation now.”
Asked of the outcome of the peace meeting, the official said: “The CJN will take action on the Rules of the court; we will adjust budget to cater for the comfort of justices and there will now be regular consultations on the operation of the court to avoid miscommunication of this nature.
“I think the CJN and Supreme Court Justices are now on the same page. Those of us in the administration will implement all the resolutions agreed upon by the parties.”
RSHA: Amaewhule-Led Lawmakers Defy Court Order, Elect New Leaders
The crisis rocking the Rivers State House of Assembly took a new twist on Wednesday as lawmakers loyal to the former Speaker, Martin Amaewhule, sat under tight security in the complex.
This is contrary to the court order asking the two factions of the State House of Assembly to maintain the status quo pending the determination of a suit filed by the Edison Ehie faction.
Recall that Ehie faction had obtained a court order that parties should maintain the status quo pending the determination of a suit seeking to sack Amaewhule as the House Speaker.
The Rivers Assembly had become factionalised following an unsuccessful move to impeach Governor Siminialayi Fubara.
The Amaewhule-led lawmakers are believed to be loyal to Fubara’s predecessor and political godfather, Nyesom Wike.
It was learnt that ahead of Wednesday’s sitting, cleaners had on Tuesday been deployed to clean up the Assembly complex, which had been under locks, since October 29, following an explosion in the complex the night before.
One of the cleaners said they were instructed to tidy up the complex ahead of a sitting on Wednesday.
It was gathered that the Wednesday sitting was held for about two hours as a team of riot policemen and security vans were stationed in front of the House to prevent any breaches.
It was gathered that the lawmakers elected a former Chief Whip as the new Majority Leader of the Assembly.
The member, representing Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Constituency 1, Frankline Nwabochi, was named the new Chief Whip.
An unsigned statement sent to the Assembly Press Corps obtained by The Tide said the two new principal officers accordingly took their oath of office.
Amaewhule congratulated them, charging them to be committed to their new responsibilities.
According to the statement, the lawmakers also passed the first reading of a Bill seeking to amend the Rivers State Local Government Law, No. 5 of 2018.
They also debated on the Rivers State House of Assembly Funds Management (Financial Autonomy) Bill, 2023, which passed second reading on Wednesday.
Amaewhule who described the Bill as important, expressed his conviction that Governor Fubara would assent to it after the lawmakers finally pass it.
He hinted that the governor had withheld funds meant for the Assembly for the month of November.
He said the lawmakers were determined to perform their constitutional duties despite the distractions.
He thereafter referred the Bill to the House Committee on Public Accounts for public hearing and further legislative scrutiny.
The other faction of the Assembly led by Ehie, and loyal to Fubara, had yet to react to the Wednesday development as of the time of filing this report.
Ogoni Group Mulls Recall Of Lawmakers Over Foiled Fubara’s Impeachment
An Advocacy group in Rivers State, Ogoni Development Drive (ODD), says it has begun the process to recall four Ogoni lawmakers from the Rivers House of Assembly over their alleged roles in the botched impeachment of Governor Similanayi Fubara.
The lawmakers are Dumle Maol (PDP, Gokana constituency), Barile Nwakoh (PDP, Khana), Aforji Igwe (PDP, Eleme) and Bernard Ngba (PDP, Tai).
The group’s Convener, Comrade Solomon Lenu, made this known at a news conference in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Recall that Fubara survived an alleged impeachment plot on October 30.
ODD said it had on November 10 issued a seven-day ultimatum to the four Ogoni lawmakers who partook in the plot that attempted to serve an impeachment notice to Governor Fubara.
The four lawmakers, now suspended, were asked to apologise to the Ogoni people whom they represent and to Gov. Fubara for denigrating his exalted office or risk being recalled.
“Instead of heeding this advice and embracing the olive branch extended to them, they rather embarked on an egocentric escapade,” the group said.
Lenu further said the lawmakers rather than heed to the advice by ODD, engaged in various meetings that purportedly plotted to unseat the governor.
“Governor Fubara was collectively voted for by the entire Rivers people, and as such, the action by the lawmakers has not gone well with all men and women of conscience.
“It is illogical for the erring assembly members to think it is right to impeach an innocent governor for no just cause but wrong to recall them for erring against their constituents.
“The suspended lawmakers called a bluff of ODD ultimatum, and so, we have decided to carry out this recall process in earnest, to put our democracy aright,” he said.
Lenu said the group had already reached an advanced level in sensitising and mobilising the lawmaker’s constituents to recall them.
He said that ODD had also obtained the comprehensive voters’ register of all voters in the four local government areas and constituencies.
According to him, an electronic capture form has also been created to make the petition process easier for students at various tertiary school campuses and those on holiday to sign the petition.
“So far, the response from the aggrieved constituents has been very impressive, and we shall in a few weeks’ time complete the compilation of the required signatures.
“The signatures are required for INEC to call for a referendum, which shall be carried out in branches with strict security guidance, to abort any sinister counterplot against democracy.
“We know this process is not going to be easy, but we are ready to go all the way, to create a sense of responsibility in our elected leaders,” he said.
Lenu said instilling a sense of responsibility in politicians and elected leaders would further entrench democratic tenets in the country.
The ODD convener called on the people of Ogoni to come forward and sign the petition, to end political “jamboree and illicit godfatherism” in the state.
The Tide reports that 26 lawmakers on Oct. 30 proceeded to impeach Fubara but were stopped by four pro-Fubara lawmakers led by Ehie Edison (PDP-Ahoada East II).
Mr Martins Amaewhule (Obio Akpor constituency), a close ally of a former governor, was later ousted as Speaker and Ehie sworn in as the new Speaker.
However, Amaewhule insists that he is still the Speaker of the House of Assembly, resulting in some form of confusion over the office of the Speaker.
FRSC Commander Faces Sanction Over Unauthorised Comments
The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), yesterday, disowned the Unit Commander, Central Business District Unit Command, Assistant Corps Commander IL Ibrahim, over his recent statement on Vehicle Inspection Officers, otherwise known as Directorate of Road Traffic Services.
Ibrahim was quoted to have said that VIO officials did not have the right to arrest road traffic violators, including overloaded vehicles and motorists caught using phones while driving.
But Deputy Corps Marshal, Bisi Kazeem, in a statement, yesterday, said Ibrahim’s comment was not the position of the Corps.
Kazeem added that the concerned official had been recalled to the national headquarters for necessary disciplinary action.
The statement read, “The Federal Road Safety Corps wishes to make a pertinent clarification regarding the pronouncement by the Unit Commander, Central Business District Unit Command, Assistant Corps Commander IL Ibrahim, that Vehicle Inspection Officers, otherwise known as Directorate of Road Traffic Services, do not have the right to arrest road traffic violators, including overloaded vehicles and motorists caught using phones while driving.
“The general public is advised to disregard the statement as it had no approval of the Corps Marshal, Dauda Ali Biu, and does not in anyway reflect the corporate or general position of the Corps.
“It is important for the public know that the laws establishing VIOs/State Traffic Management Agencies give them the statutory mandate to make arrests on different offences depending on the state within which they operate. As such, the agencies should be given the maximum cooperation for the enhancement of safety on our roads.
“On this note and in line with sustaining the Corps’ resolve that road safety is a collective responsibility, and in acknowledgement of the roles the State Traffic Management Agencies like the Vehicle Inspection Officers play in complementing the statutory responsibilities of the FRSC through enforcement of traffic laws, the Corps Marshal has ordered the immediate withdrawal of the Unit Commander to the national headquarters for necessary administrative and disciplinary actions.
“The public is admonished to always comply with all established traffic regulations and cooperate with security agencies deployed to maintain law and order on the highways, irrespective of their corporate mandate.”
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