The justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria have called out the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, over poor conditions of service in the Judiciary and the welfare of its members.
According to Peoples Gazette, in a letter by the justices, members of Nigeria’s judiciary expressed their concerns over their budgetary allocations that have not been increased in the last four years.
“We are serving this Country diligently and to the best of our ability. We resolve disputes between the Executive and the Legislature including all manner of disagreements, between governments and individuals…It would be a tragedy if the Nigerian Public were to know that we are unable to resolve our own problems internally without going public,” the letter said.
“The decision to write to you formally must be seen by Your Lordship as an effort on our part to preserve the dignity of the Judiciary and the respect accorded to us by Governments and people of Nigeria.”
The issues raised by the justices in the letter include the failure to replace dilapidated vehicles, accommodation problems, poor healthcare services at the Supreme Court clinic and poor electricity supply to the Supreme Court.
The justices also lamented the increase in electricity tariffs, no modified allowances to reflect the increase in diesel prices and lack of internet services in their chambers.
The justices called Mr Tanko’s attention to an internal memo served by the Chief Registrar, which notified judges that electricity would be supplied to the court between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. daily, due to the lack of diesel.
“The implication of this memo is that the Justices must finish their work and close before 4pm. Your Lordship 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,” the Justices wrote. “Your Lordship, this act alone portends imminent danger to the survival of this Court and the Judiciary as an institution, which is gradually drifting to extinction.”
Other issues cover the non-signing of amended Court Rules, an abrupt stoppage of foreign workshops and training per annum for justices; and no provision of qualified legal assistants.
As such, the judges called Mr Tanko’s sense of responsibility into question, fearing a potential shutdown of the judiciary due to the raised concerns.
“Your Lordship, this is a wake-up call. Your Lordship must take full responsibility as our leader. You must not concession your responsibility to people who have no responsibility or stake in preserving and defending the dignity of the Institution,” the letter said. “Your Lordship occupies a position of leadership. We will not wait for the total collapse of the institution.”
The letter was delivered early in June, and Supreme Court sources confirmed to the Gazette that a commotion had broken out over it. They also said a committee that included traditional leaders has been trying to mediate the crisis.
When reached for comment, Ahuraka Isa, Special Assistant to Mr Tanko on media, said he would respond with a statement.