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Protest letter by supreme court judges akin to dancing naked in public, says CJN

Protest letter by supreme court judges akin to dancing naked in public, says CJN
June 21
12:23 2022

Ibrahim Muhammad, chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), has reacted to a letter sent to him by justices of the supreme court.

In the letter seen by TheCable, 14 justices of the apex court accused the CJN of abandoning his responsibilities as the leader of the court.

Some of the issues raised by the justices include — accommodation, vehicles, electricity tariff, supply of diesel, internet services to justices’ residences, training for justices and epileptic electricity supply to the court.

However, the CJN in a statement issued by his spokesman, Isa Ahuraka, said he did not want to join issue with the justices, adding that the circulation of the letter is akin to “dancing naked at the market square”.

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“Judges in all climes are to be seen and not heard, and that informed why the CJN refrained from joining issues until a letter, said to be personal, is spreading across the length and breadth of the society. This was akin to dancing naked at the market square by us with the ripple effect of the said letter,” he said.

The CJN said the lack of funds owing to the impact of the COVID pandemic affected the operations of the apex court.

“The supreme court definitely does not exist outside its environment, it is also affected by the economic and socio-political climate prevailing in the country. Besides that, the Apex Court has to a larger extent, been living to its constitutional responsibility,” he said.

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”When a budget is made, it contains two sides, that’s the recurrent and the capital, yet all the two are broken down into items. The federal government releases the budget based on the budget components. And it’s an offence to spend the money meant for one item for another.

“Take, for instance, the supreme court budgeted this year to re-roof and rehabilitate its complex built over 30 years ago and that is being done. The work on the extension of the complex is near completion, the esthetic lawns and cleanness of the perimeters are being well kept, and security and water supply are adequately provided for his brother Justices in their offices and residences.

“During the period of pandemic, a profound and extra-care were maintained to avoid causalities among them as well as the staff generally. It would have amounted to an act of irresponsibility to divert money meant for the above for otherwise.

“The accusation so far, in summary, is that more or all ought to have been done and not that nothing has been done; which is utopian in the contemporary condition of our country.”

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He said before eight new justices were appointed in 2020, “there was no additional budget to provide new chambers with equipped library, legal assistance, residential accommodations and logistics for them”.

“The apex court has to make do with the resources at its disposal to meet their needs over time. All the justices of this court has at least a legal assistance, except some may opt for more,” he said.

Responding to the allegation of not funding training, he said eight supreme court justices were nominated for a workshop in London two weeks ago and that they would be going in batches.

He added that “accommodations are being gradually provided for the few that are yet to get”.

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“There is none of the apex court justices without SUV and backup cars. If any of them were purchased but refurbished, the external and internal auditors are here in the court to take those that bought them up over it,” he said.

“The high cost of electricity tariff and diesel are national problems. The chief registrar might have budgeted for N300 per litre but diesel is now selling for over N700 per litre and therefore has to find a way around it without even bringing it to the attention of the CJN. But there is no way the generator would be put off if the court is sitting.

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“The amendment of court rules is in process, it has to be critically reviewed to avoid conflict with the constitution and other extant laws. Not all the CJNs has reviewed the rules in the past.

“The internet services have been restored to Justices’ residences and chambers, just as some allowances have been paid to them. The CJN held a meeting with his brother Justices last Thursday and another one is due to hold this week.”

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