The Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dr. Wale Babalakin, has called for improvement in the remuneration of judges, saying it ought to be subject to review against the rate of inflation in the country.
According to him, though the Nigerian courts ought to be manned by the best brains, many of capable hands were being discouraged from going to the bench because the welfare for judges was poor.
He described as unacceptable and unconstitutional a situation where the budgetary allocation to the National Judicial Council was dictated by the executive, noting that the situation had remained the same despite agitation by successive Chief Justices of Nigeria.
Babalakin, according to a statement on Wednesday, said this in a paper titled, “Law and the Society”, which he delivered on Tuesday as the guest lecturer at the Annual Reunion of Government College Ibadan Old Boys’ Association.
He said, “The National Judicial Council’s budget is dictated by the executive. It can only spend what is made available to it. I have listened to all Chief Justices of Nigeria since Honorable Justice Aloma Mukhtar complained about the poor funding of the judiciary. I have been told that some states are unable to pay the full allowance to judicial officers. This is totally unacceptable and unconstitutional.
“We have to pay judicial officers appropriately and it is my submission that their salaries should be indexed to inflation. In Nigeria, today, most people have lost 50 per cent of the value of their earnings to inflation, which implies that judges now earn less than half of their salaries in real value.”
Babalakin also said high court judges were being overworked, suggesting that some of the cases being handled by them should be channeled to the magistrates’ courts.
He said, “I believe that most of the jurisdiction being exercised by high courts in the states can be handled at the magistracy. We need to enlarge the jurisdiction of the magistrates’ courts to take away some burden of the high courts, so that the high court can concentrate on issues that require great attention.”
He added that appointment of judges must be on merit based on intellectual capacity.