Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), on Tuesday, said the conditions under which judicial workers operate must be befitting and good enough to attract the best of minds into the profession.
The senior advocate, who said judicial remuneration and welfare are critical to the success of the sector, also noted that there is no basis for judges to earn less than federal legislators.
Osinbajo spoke at the Justice Sector Reform Summit 2022 themed, ‘Devising Practical Solutions Towards Improved Performance, Enhanced Accountability And Independence In The Justice Sector’.
The VP, in his speech sent to reporters by his spokesman, Laolu Akande, listed five critical areas that are germane for an excellent judicial sector.
The VP, who was Lagos State Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General between 1999 and 2007, said the areas are; the establishment of a solely merit-based judicial selection and promotion process; a new approach to judicial budgeting and funding and the all-important question of judicial remuneration and welfare.
The VP’s speech was titled, ‘We Must Rediscover Attributes That Made Nigeria’s Judiciary High-Calibre In Africa – Osinbajo’.
Osinbajo was quoted as saying, “Also, while we ask for the best from our judicial officers, we must equally ensure that the conditions under which they operate are not only befitting but are good enough to attract the best of minds in our profession. Judicial remuneration and welfare are critical.
“Why should a judge earn so much less than a federal legislator? There is no basis for it whatsoever. We should in fact benchmark without necessarily creating fresh new legislation because the Legislature doesn’t have any legislation about their own salaries.
“If we benchmark what a federal judicial officer/Court of Appeal Judge earns to what a House of Representatives member earns, you’d find a startling difference. If you benchmark a Supreme Court Justice to what a Senator earns, you’d notice the difference. If we start that quick process now, we would not have to go through the rigorous process of legislation. We would just benchmark the salaries even if we are going to call it allowances.
“The truth of the matter is that the responsibilities of the judge or justice of the Supreme Court/Court of Appeal are such they must be well remunerated. They are such that when they retire, they must be able to go to homes that they own in decent places where they live. That’s the way it should be. We shouldn’t have a situation where judges are anxious that when they retire, they won’t have homes to go to, because their salaries today can’t build anything decent. We must ensure that these are the conditions that are met.
“We must strengthen the processes of reviewing performance, incentivising excellence, and penalising misconduct.”