Friday, July 1, 2022

Despite N120 billion budget, we have no data allowance, electricity to do our work, Supreme Court justices revolt against CJN Tanko

In a rare but frenetic complaint, the top jurists agonised about critical operational constraints that could have been avoided under strict compliance with budgetary provisions.

• June 19, 2022
Supreme Court Judges
Supreme Court Judges used to illustrate the story

Supreme Court justices have revolted against the leadership of the Chief Justice of Nigeria Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad whose tenure has left their allowances and emoluments unpaid despite being allotted N120 billion in the nation’s 2022 budget.

In the letter sent to Mr Muhammad early this month, the justices demanded to know what had happened to their legitimate entitlements under Mr Tanko.

They lamented how requests for legal assistants, standard health clinic, accommodation for justices, diesel and data allowance had been ignored by Mr Tanko, even though the chief justice set up a panel months earlier that he said would look into the matter.

The committee also requested “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. Your Lordship received and ignored these demands since 24th March 2022.

“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 required electricity to work at home,” the memo seen by Peoples Gazette and authenticated by sources at the Supreme Court said.

The justices berated Mr Muhammad further, saying his inefficient leadership had drastically deteriorated the standards known with the nation’s highest court.

They were concerned that Supreme Court justices sworn in since November 2020 had yet to be accommodated by the apex Court in spite of Mr Muhammad’s promise.

“Your Lordship promised to take up the issue that day. To date, your Lordship has not taken any step in this direction,” bewailed the justices.

Buttressing their claims, the justices said their mandatory foreign workshops and training three times in a year “with an accompanying person for reason of age” have been on hold under Mr Tanko, who has now limited their options to only Dubai and Tanzania without an accompanying person.

Furious that the CJN travelled with his entire family and personal staff, the justices demanded to know what had become of their allowances despite the judiciary gulping about N120 billion of the nation’s 2022 budget.

“Your Lordship totally ignored this demand and yet travelled with your spouse, children and personal staff,” they said before demanding “to know what has become of our training funds, have they been diverted or is this a plain denial?”

“We find it strange that despite the upward review of our budgetary allocation, the Court cannot cater for our legitimate entitlements. This is unacceptable!” The letter added. Their allocation had been increased from N110 billion in 2021 budget to N120 billion in 2022

The apex judges decried the current state of their health clinic, which they said had been reduced “to a mere consulting clinic” since drugs were not always available to treat minor ailments, thereby endangering justices who may require emergency medical intervention.

The Supreme Court justices also raised concern over an internal memo that forced them to close by 4pm over lack of diesel, an act they said proves the apex Court had sunk into unthinkable depths under Mr Muhammad’s leadership.

According to our sources, the letter which was sent to Mr Muhammad earlier this month, caused further upheavals in the judicial circles. Traditional leaders have tried to wade into the crisis and resolve the dispute bedevilling the ranks of top jurists.

When reached for comment, Ahuraka Isa, a spokesman for Mr Tanko, said that the issues raised by the justices had been addressed, even though his principal bore no responsibilities.

“The memo written by the Supreme Court justices to the CJN complaining of their poor state of warfare was earlier expressed during their quarterly meeting held in March this year. The CJN was attending to the complaints before his colleagues decided to reduce the complaints into writing. They have been settled now and the apex court bench is calm,” Mr Isa responded in a statement. 

“CJN is not the cause of Supreme Court justices’ financial woes but a collective woeful working condition. The CJN does not close from work till sometimes 7 to 8 pm. Meanwhile, most of the judges’ complaints have been attended to or have received adequate attention as they were made to know during their meeting with Justice Bage.”

Mr Muhammad replaced Walter Onnoghen and assumed the Chief Justice position in January 2019.

The Gazette in December 2020 had reported that Mr Muhammad endured a torrid dementia, an ailment causing loss of memory and heart complications.

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