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Monday, April 15, 2024

House of Representatives passes bill for substantial increase in judicial salaries

Landmark Decision to Revamp Compensation for Judges Faces Scrutiny and Applause

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In a historic move on Wednesday, the Nigerian House of Representatives greenlit a bill aimed at significantly elevating the salaries, allowances, and fringe benefits of judicial officers across the nation, marking the culmination of a prolonged legislative process. Spearheaded by President Bola Tinubu, the bill received resounding support during its third reading, signaling a watershed moment in Nigeria’s legal landscape.

If enacted into law, the bill promises an astounding over 800 per cent surge in judicial salaries, positioning the Chief Justice of Nigeria to command an annual basic salary and allowances totaling N64.6 million—a stark departure from the current compensation framework. This seismic shift underscores a concerted effort to address longstanding disparities and bolster the financial well-being of judicial officers, a move backed by various Senior Advocates of Nigeria who argue that robust remuneration is pivotal in curbing corruption within the judiciary.

The proposed legislation seeks to amend the Certain Political, Public, and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances, etc) Act of 2002 by overhauling existing provisions pertinent to judicial office holders, heralding a new era of fiscal empowerment for the judiciary. With an effective date slated for January 1, 2024, the bill outlines detailed remuneration structures, including substantial increases in regular allowances, basic salaries, and additional perks such as leave allowances, duty tour allowances, and motor vehicle loans.

Notably, justices of the Supreme Court are poised to receive annual basic salaries and regular allowances surpassing N60 million, while their counterparts in the Court of Appeal and various other judicial bodies stand to benefit from comparable salary enhancements. These provisions extend to judges across federal and state jurisdictions, affirming a commitment to equitable compensation practices nationwide.

Despite widespread acclaim for the bill’s passage, voices of dissent and calls for further review have emerged, with legal luminaries such as Prof Mike Ozekhome and Chief Niyi Akintola advocating for more substantial salary adjustments commensurate with the demanding nature of judicial duties. They contend that while the proposed increases mark a positive step forward, they fall short of adequately addressing the financial exigencies facing judicial officers, echoing concerns over the persistence of entrenched salary differentials.

As the bill awaits transmission to the President for assent, the Nigerian House of Representatives’ decision represents a pivotal juncture in the ongoing discourse surrounding judicial reform and institutional integrity. With stakeholders poised to engage in deliberations over the bill’s ramifications, the outcome promises to shape the trajectory of Nigeria’s legal framework, balancing fiscal imperatives with the imperative of fostering judicial independence and integrity.

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