The Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”) has become apprised of a letter written by 14 Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (“CJN”), alleging, among others, various improprieties and administrative inefficiencies that have not only affected their judicial responsibilities, but also impacted on the justice administration process. The NBA also notes the response issued by the office of the CJN to the complaints.
At the Justice Sector Summit organised, in January 2022, by the NBA in collaboration with other key stakeholders, the related issues of funding, budgeting and administration of the Nigerian Judiciary, constituted the second of the three focus areas identified as being the greatest challenges confronting the Nigerian Judiciary. At the end of that Summit, the NBA made
far reaching proposals on how to tackle these challenges especially as regards
the funding, budgeting, and administration of the Nigerian Judiciary.
The current developments at the Supreme Court which culminated in the
above referenced letter and the CJN’s response underscore the necessity and
urgency of fundamental reform of the administration and governance of the
While the NBA notes the CJN’s response and appreciates the economic
challenges plaguing the country as a whole, it is nonetheless disheartening to
learn that in spite of the high expectations that the society have of the Justices,
some of the basic necessities which they require to function properly are
currently lacking. Besides their stagnated income over the years, a situation
where there is no formal scheme for the mandatory appointment of judicial
assistants for the Justices, no regular training for their improvement, limited or
no internet access for their operations, is, to say the least, unfortunate.
For Justices of the Supreme Court, who are generally known to be taciturn in
making demands, to resort to penning down their grievances in the
unprecedented manner that they have done indicates that they had
obviously reached their tolerance peak. Thankfully, as the CJN advised, these
issues are now being addressed in the short term.
One of the cardinal responsibilities of the NBA is to advocate for the
independence and financial autonomy of the Judiciary as we have been doing over the years. However, as we continue in that advocacy, it is
particularly 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 wellbeing 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.
As I have noted elsewhere, this is election season, and we are all witnesses to
the humongous war chests that the politicians and political parties are
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
Our 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. For
us at the NBA, we will continue to do all that we can to defend and support
the Judiciary towards achieving these objectives, enthroning probity, and
generally living up to expectations.
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