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.
In a letter by the justices, seen by Peoples Gazette, 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 judges called Mr Tanko’s sense of responsibility into question, fearing a potential shutdown of the judiciary due to the raised concerns.
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, a spokesman for Mr Tanko, said that the issues raised by the justices had been addressed, even though his principal bore no responsibilities.
“The memo written by the Supreme Court justices to the CJN complaining of their poor state of warfare was earlier expressed during their quarterly meeting held in March this year. The CJN was attending to the complaints before his colleagues decided to reduce the complaints into writing. They have been settled now and the apex court bench is calm,” Mr Isa responded in a statement.
“CJN is not the cause of Supreme Court justices’ financial woes but a collective woeful working condition. The CJN does not close from work till sometimes 7 to 8 pm. Meanwhile, most of the judges’ complaints have been attended to or have received adequate attention as they were made to know during their meeting with Justice Bage,” he added.