By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
Attempts to settle out of court a suit instituted against the National Assembly (NASS), Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the National Judicial Council (NJC) seeking a general review of wages for judges have collapsed.
The court action instituted by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Sebastine Hon, could not be amicably settled as proposed on June 6 by the National Assembly. The Assembly, which proposed the out of court settlement, could not bring the parties together for talks.
The Attorney-General of the Federation who was supposed to be a party to the out of court settlement has filed a counter affidavit and preliminary objection against the suit
At the Wednesday proceedings, Counsel to AGF, Ekene Elodimuo confirmed to the National Industrial Court in Abuja that his client (AGF) is desirous of going with the court hearing of the suit and has filed necessary processes.
The National Judicial Council on its part has also engaged the services of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Kunle Adegoke, to present its position in the determination of the suit.
At the proceedings Chief Adgboyega Awomolo SAN, who stood for the plaintiff told Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae that the AGF had served on him his counter affidavit and preliminary objection indicating that the June 6 proposed out of court settlement had collapsed.
The senior lawyer asked the court to allow him proceed with hearing of the originating summons of his client.
However, counsel to NJC, Kunle Adegoke SAN, pleaded with the Judge to grant him a short adjournment to enable him file necessary processes in respect of the matter.
He informed the court that the NJC briefed him less than 24 hours ago and that he needed time to study the originating summons and file his response.
Counsel for the plaintiff (Awomolo) did not oppose the request for adjournment but pleaded with the court to allow hearing in the matter on Monday June 27.
In a brief ruling, Justice Obaseki-Osaghae granted the adjournment request by the NJC but fixed June 28 for hearing of the suit.
The proceedings was attended by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Olumide Akpata, Femi Falana SAN, and over 30 Senior Advocates of Nigeria SANs.
Apart from NASS, AGF NJC, another defendant in the suit is Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) but was not represented in court by any legal practitioner.
Plaintiff in the suit, Chief Sebastine Hon SAN who instituted the case is praying the court to compel the defendants (AGF, NJC NASS) to increase the salaries and allowances of judges in Nigeria.
In a supporting affidavit to the originating summons, plaintiff stated that as a legal practitioner, “who has practised in all the levels of courts in Nigeria, I know that poor pay for judicial officers is seriously affecting the quality of judgments and rulings those officers are delivering and the discharge of other functions associated with their offices.”
He argued that the current economic reality in the country requires that the salaries and allowances of the nation’s judges be urgently improved upon.
The plaintiff noted that the highest-paid judicial officer in Nigeria – the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) – currently earns about N3.4 million per annum, far below what is earned by such an officer in other countries.
Hon, who quoted what all judicial officers currently earn as provided under Part IIB of the Schedule to the Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances, etc) Amendment Act 2008, said the paltry sums have discouraged him from aspiring to become a judge.
At the proceedings of June 6, the National Assembly had asked the court to allow an out of court settlement in the suit .
NASS through its counsel, Mr. Charles Yoila, told Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae, that the institution is interested in an out of court settlement policy because of the nature of the matter.
The counsel hadl pleaded with the court to grant an adjournment so as to enable parties in the sit on a round table for discussion for an amicable resolution.