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Remuneration: Saving judicial officers from kick-back inducement

Issues arising from reports of alleged bribery at the end of Nigeria’s judiciary, has remained a subject coloured with clusters of reservations. The trust placed on the judiciary as the institution of dignity to effect justice in an organised society, is a sanctity that demands nothing but utmost integrity. However, it appears the posture of sustaining the sanctity of this integrity without blemish in Nigeria is particularly developing a shivering posture. The character spots that bear influence to these abnormalities draw inferences on a number of factors.

The subject of the remuneration of Judges and Magistrates who oversee the courtroom in vetting matters of justice bordering on disputes and crimes remain crucial. The critical nature of their responsibilities with the necessity to hold the virtue of integrity at the highest esteem, is a reckoning force which demands that every pointer to temptations of shifting grounds for compromise are completely eliminated. The reports of poor remuneration and heaps of arrears owed against judicial officers is an ‘unfavourable quick tempter’ that exposes them to the risk of corrupt tendencies. One of the sordid reflection came to the public glare on Monday when Magistrates in Cross River State resorted to protest at the Governor’s office in Calabar over non-payment of 24 months salaries. The Magistrates who spanned across the 18 local government areas of the state blocked the second gate leading to the Governor’s office, arming themselves with placards bearing such inscriptions  as ‘No Bliss, no blush, we are not crystallised nor olumposized, Cross River State Magistrates in penury’; ‘We have right to employment’; ‘Magistrates in Cross River State are thrown out of their rented apartments, Ayade pay us’.

The Chief Magistrate Solomon Abuo, who spoke on behalf of the aggrieved Magistrates, said the protest is their last resort. He was quoted: “We are protesting the non-payment of our 24 months’ salary. This is January and we have been discharging our duties to the state government. We have courts that we are heading and we have been working for the state government to bring about peace and tranquility to the society, yet the governor does not deem it fit to pay us our salaries despite our entreaties, pleas, letters, correspondences, screening upon screening. After our employment and swearing-in, we have further undergone  four screenings. After each of them, the governor will ignore the report requesting him to pay us our salaries. So this is our last resort. Right now we have 30 Magistrates affected across the 18 LGAs of the state. Funny enough, the governor’s local government has the highest number (11 magistrates who are affected) and the state does not care. Is it wrong for one to serve the state? As Judicial officers, are we supposed to go through this kind of humiliation? That’s the question we want answers to. We are all family men with children in school, we cannot pay children’s school fees. Last year one of the Magistrates was arraigned before a fellow Magistrate for inability to pay house rent. Most of us can’t pay our house rents, we are squatting with colleagues and all that. Our prayer is that our 24 months’ salary be paid with immediate effect, otherwise we will continue this protest and stop sittings in court until we are paid.”

In modern society, the Judiciary is tagged with the nomenclature of being “the last hope of the common man”. The structural formations of the workings of modern government have rested the baton of justice in the arm of government now called the “Judiciary”, saddled with the responsibility of ensuring evil acts, inclinations and heinous crimes do not ravage the society without being brought to book. One of the definition of a corrupt society is one where crime thrives without a forceful arm bearing the sword of the law to bring defaulters to face the wrath of penalties established by the State. Where laws exist however, but are being perverted, brings a stronger influence of deepening the root of disorderliness in the society. At the present, the prevailing situation in Nigeria demands nothing but a full unbiased and sanctimonious judiciary, which is impeccably vibrant in the journey towards changing the narrative of the endemism of corruption and crime ravaging the entire fabric of the Country.

As said earlier, in every sane entity, the Judiciary remains the “last hope of the common man”. It is therefore essential that the necessity to keep the sacredness of the institution undefiled, be elevated to the highest esteem. Nigeria needs a reformation in the light of an ideological overhauling and forceful purging of the society from the preponderance of societal ills. The Judiciary is key in this quest; and it is therefore essential that its sanctimonious posture must be restored and enhanced to the impeccable height of wholeness.

It is pathetic to state that where judicial officers, particularly Judges and Magistrates are poorly remunerated and/or owed arrears summing into months, the possibilities to be exposed to temptation of corrupt inducement may not be totally ruled out. The necessity to maintain the sanctity of the Judiciary is very key to addressing the preponderance of societal decadence prevailing in Nigeria with unpleasant records of ills, vices and troubling crimes. As the arm of the Government that ensures the determination of justice in matters of critical concerns, it is essential that attention be given to the allowances and remuneration of judicial officers with utmost sensitivity as a strategic move to building and upholding the sanctimonious posture of the institution. This is paramount to eliminate every gap that may create lacunae which may expose these officials to the venom of temptations of corruption to pervert jusctice against State interest.

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