The recent publication “Please Save Our Judges” By Dr. Muiz Banire, SAN has once again brought the welfare of members of our Judiciary to the fore.
There is no time better than now to consider the issue of the remuneration of Judges and Magistrates vis-a-vis the prevalence of corruption within the revered 3rd arm of Government.
I will not repeat what the learned silk has said. You may read his article here:https://www.barristerNG.com/please-save-our-judges-by-muiz-banire-san/
I will however focus on the welfare of Magistrates, Customary Court Presidents and other lawyers working in the lower Courts in this addendum to what the learned silk had stated.
A Magistrate in Lagos State is paid about 250K per month (no need to state what a President of the Customary Court receives which is less).
A Magistrate and lower court judge are no less of a judge than a High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court Judge. They all are subject to the same professional and moral standards. The only fundamental difference is the Jurisdiction of cases they each handle BUT they are all LAWYERS and subject to the same principles.
It may interest you to know that the case docket of an average Magistrate in Lagos State is between 300 to 700 or more cases. So it’s not an issue of the workload
It is presumed that 70% of all disputes begins at the magistrate court level while more than 80% of all criminal cases is handled and determined at the magistrate courts.
Lawyers of more than 20yrs post call can be found in the magistrate courts while more than 35% of Magistrates have been Magistrates for more than 10years.
The remuneration of Magistrates is abismally poor, the courts they occupy are grossly ill-equipped and they barely have experienced support staff to aid them.
In my fight against Corruption within the Judiciary, I have come to understand the inner workings of the Judiciary, the intrigues and the politics that plays out.
From the moment a Magistrate is appointed he is at the mercy of the system, an unspoken code, never to complain but be ready to do the biding of their superiors who themselves are under some influences of powerful politicians and others who prey on making the judiciary their personal tools to get whatever they want.
Dr. Banire SAN noted accurately that the Judges are part of the society with the same economic needs. I like to think that his article was not only for the JUDGES but for all lawyers working within the Judiciary …….so I take the liberty to retitle is article to read: “SAVE OUR JUDICIARY”.
Another interesting point to note is that while the Judges receive their salaries from the Federal Government through the National Judicial Council, the Magistrates receive theirs from the State Judicial Service Commission, this simply means that while the Judges salary are uniformed across State lines, Magistrates are paid according to the capacity of each State. It is also important to note that respective State Governments have supported Judges by providing extra resources and comforts for judges but our Magistrates are not that fortunate.
In Lagos for instance, the last time some Magistrates got an official car was in 2012 or so. The State Government has only now managed to get some cars for the senior cadre of Magistrates 8 years after. The new Magistrates in Lagos and some older ones take public transport to work yet they are expected to adjudicate on disputes of up to 10million Naira and on criminal matters that involve really dangerous accused persons. I ask: *Where is their safety and security, where is the incentive to do their jobs with pride and honour?*
Let me make a very important point here _….The lack of proper welfare support for Judicial Officers is not in anyway an excuse to be corrupt!_ *There is no excuse for a judge or magistrate who swore an oath to do justice and uphold the constitution to fail in his oath* .
They perform the duty that only God is fit to execute flawlessly BUT they are only humans with all our flaws and sins.
We cannot guarantee that corruption will cease to exist if the Judiciary is well funded but at least we can all get an acceptable standard of Justice if our Judiciary has the basic tools for which to function.
I therefore call upon all stakeholders and especially the NBA and all its Branches to take a closer look at all issues concerning the judiciary with the aim of making it the best it possible can.
We owe it to our profession to support our Judiciary because only Lawyers are responsible for this arm of Government.