Justice Odili: Attack on judges should never repeat itself, Reps warn

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The House of Representatives has warned that unnecessary attacks on judicial officers, especially Supreme Court Justices, should never happen again.

It said such attacks weakened the strength and morale of judicial officers in the dispensation of justice to the public.

Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary, Onofiok Luke (PDP, Akwa Ibom), gave the warning during 2022 budget defence of the National Judicial Council, NJC, with the panel yesterday.

This came as the National Judicial Council, NJC said high exchange rate had become a challenge to them.

Speaking at the Budget defence, Luke said: “Of great importance to this committee is the security of judicial officers.

”We have stated as a committee that we should create an enabling environment, not only a working environment, not just good living conditions, but a secured environment for our judicial officials to operate without hindrance, without any fear of intimidation or harassment.

“We want to condemn the attack on Justice Odili’s residence, a justice of the Supreme Court and we ask that this should not repeat itself. It happened in 2017, this should not be allowed to repeat itself because we are weakening the morale and strength of our judicial officers.

”We have stated as a committee that we should create an enabling environment, not only a working environment, not just good living conditions, but a secured environment for our judicial officials to operate without hindrance, without any fear of intimidation or harassment.

READ ALSO: Justice Odili: Attacks on judges should never repeat itself, Reps warn
“We want to condemn the attack on Justice Odili’s residence, a justice of the Supreme Court and we ask that this should not repeat itself. It happened in 2017, this should not be allowed to repeat itself because we are weakening the morale and strength of our judicial officers.

“Whichever side of the divide we find ourselves today, whether the privileged few today, someday along the line, we will appear before the courts.

“In this country, we have seen judicial officers appear before courts when they do not think they will appear, we have seen governors, Rep members, senators, we have seen privileged people appear before court.

“So if we do have a good, impartial and independent court, the day we have a day in court, we will be faced with the kind of court and judicial system we have prepared for ourselves.

“So, we should all rise in unison and condemn what is condemnable, we should rise in unison to support our judicial officers, to be able to provide them security, good living working condition so that they can discharge their duties”.

Luke also called for Intervention funds to be set out for the judiciary, submitting that such obtained in sports and other sectors.

“It is quite disheartening that not only do they have challenges in their workplace, they have challenges even in their pay. So, it is the resolve of this committee and the House under the leadership of Femi Gbajabiamila and the entire leadership for us to partner and ensure that there is a review of salaries that would make for better welfare of judicial officers.

“There should be better living and working conditions for our judicial officers. There is need to put in place technology that would make our courtrooms to be in line with what is obtainable in other climes.

“With this, we appreciate FEC for this gesture. We want to still put on record that, even though there is a competing demand in the Judiciary, there is need to put in place a better working condition for our judicial officers.

“We need to put in place technology that will make our courtrooms be in line with what is obtainable in other climes, this is making the sum appropriated inadequate.

“We will continue to clamour that the Federal Government should have an intervention fund for the Judiciary.

“We have intervention fund for sports, we have intervention funds for youths, we have had intervention funds for entertainment, I do not think it will be out of place for the federal government to have intervention fund for the Judiciary,” he said.

Defending the budget of the council, the Executive Secretary of NJC, Ahmed Gambo Saleh, said the major challenge facing the council was the depreciating value of the naira.

“The exchange rate of naira to dollar as at December 2000 was N380 to one US dollar. But in May this year, the naira has further depreciated to N570 to one US dollar. This has caused a serious challenge in our budget implementation and performance, especially on projects and services that have foreign exchange components.

“We have made adequate provisions in this year’s budget to cater for some of these major projects, to the point of completion and exiting completely, but due to this depreciation and inflation, we certainly cannot achieve total completion.

”What this means is that we may have to roll over some of the projects next year and we may also have to make provision to cater for them,” he said.

Saleh expressed appreciation to the committee for ensuring the NJC appropriation for 2022 was reviewed upwards from N110 billion to N120 billion and assured of proper use of the funds.

According to him, the NJC has accessed almost 80 percent of the total funds appropriated to the Nigerian judiciary in 2021 as at October this year, adding that implementation was at 73 percent.

On 2022 budget, Saleh said that a total sum of N16.83 billion was proposed for salaries of state judicial officers, while N5.93 billion was for gratuity of retired judicial workers.

He added that N32.2 billion was for personnel cost of the Federal Judiciary and N23.8 billion for capital expenditures just as he stated that overhead was placed at N31.6 billion and N200 million for service wide vote.

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