The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, has asked the National Industrial Court, NIC, sitting in Abuja, to dismiss a suit seeking the upward review of salaries of judges in the country.
The AGF, in a counter-affidavit and preliminary objection he filed before the court, maintained that a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Mr. Sebastian Hon, who instituted the action, lacked the locus standi to do so.
Malami's objection to the suit came on a day Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osagie fixed to receive a report of a proposed out-of-court-settlement of the matter.
The court had on June 6, acceded to a request by the National Assembly, which is a defendant in the suit, for parties to be allowed to explore an alternative means of resolving the thorny issue of poor remuneration of judicial officers across the federation.
Aside from Malami, NASS and National Judicial Council, NJC, Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, was also joined as a defendant in the suit.
Meanwhile, at the resumed proceedings on yesterday, Chief Adgboyega Awomolo, SAN, who led over 30 other SANs, as well as the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Olumide Akpata, to announce appearance for the plaintiff, confirmed that he was served with Malami's objection to the suit.
He, therefore, urged the court to allow the case to proceed to hearing of the originating summons filed by the plaintiff.
Malami's lawyer, Mr. Ekene Elodimuo, said the AGF, having filed the necessary processes, was also desirous of joining issues with the plaintiff in the course of the hearing.
However, the NJC, which engaged a SAN, Mr. Kunle Adegoke, to present its position on the matter, prayed for a short adjournment to enable it file its response.
Adegoke informed the court that he was briefed to handle the matter less than 24 hours before the sitting, saying he would need time to study the originating summons to be able to file the necessary processes.
His request for an adjournment was not opposed by any of the parties, though there was no legal representation for the RMAFC.
Consequently, Justice Obaseki-Osagie adjourned the matter till June 28 for hearing.
The plaintiff, Mr. Hon, SAN, is praying the court to compel the defendants to increase the salaries and allowances of judges in Nigeria.
NBA calls for urgent reforms in judiciary
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has said there was an urgent need for fundamental reforms of the administration and governance of the Nigerian Judiciary.
In a statement by the President, Olumide Akpata, the NBA described as disheartening and unfortunate the conditions highlighted in the letter written by 14 Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), alleging various improprieties and administrative inefficiencies and the subsequent response of the CJN.
The NBA noted that the situation had not not only affected the judicial responsibilities of the justices but also impacted on the justice administration process.
While advocating the independence and financial autonomy of the Judiciary, the NBA also noted that it is important that the Judiciary must not only be, but should be seen as being above board and transparent in the management and allocation of the resources currently available to it.
"The Judiciary must entrench the principles of accountability and probity in the manner in which it expends allocated resources.
"While the fight for increased budgetary allocations for the Judiciary continues, it is important that the available resources be used for the welfare and well-being of our judicial officers as well as for the improvement of the infrastructure and facilities required by our Judges and Justices to effectively discharge their duties.
"There is a clear need for mechanisms to be put in place to ensure that the Judiciary (with the Supreme Court leading the charge) is providing the necessary template to other arms of government on transparent procurement and budgeting.
"This will reduce the perception in some quarters that the Judiciary is not accountable to anyone and is also not self-regulating."
The NBA President also said with the election season, and the humongous war chests politicians and political parties were amassing, the only way to insulate and make our judges and justices immune to the temptations of being corrupted by these politicians is to assure them of decent working conditions and adequate compensation both in and out of service.
The judges and justices, on their part, have a duty to ensure that the honour and respect that is accorded the Judiciary by the public is not lost or dwindled, and that the public continues to hold the Judiciary in the highest esteem.