Justices’ memo: CJN defends Supreme Court integrity

Chief Justice Tanko Muhammad yesterday frowned at the leakage of a memo in which 14 Justices of the Supreme Court lamented their poor working conditions.

Justice Muhammad said the memo created in the minds of members of the public, the impression that nothing was being done to improve the conditions of service at the apex court.

He added in a statement by his media aide Ahuraka Isah, that since judges are meant to be seen and not heard, what had played out was like the judiciary “dancing naked in a market square.”

Apart from alleging non-attendance of overseas training, the 14 Justices demanded to know from the CJN if their training funds had been diverted or that they were simply being denied.

But in the statement by Isah, the CJN assured the public that “there’s no hostility or adverse feelings among the Justices.”

Muhammad catalogued some efforts made by his office to enhance both the working and living conditions of both Supreme Court Justices and those of the other courts.

He explained that it was imperative for Justices to know that funds available to the court are categorised into recurrent and capital.

The CJN stated that it amounted to a breach of the law if funds termed recurrent are spent on capital projects and vice versa.

Pointing out that the economic and socio-political climate prevailing in the country naturally affects the activities of his office, Muhammad assured that efforts were being intensified to enhance the conditions of all the apex court Justices.

He mentioned the retirements, deaths and advent of COVID-19 as factors that affected some of the functions of his office.

The statement reads .”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

“When a budget is made, it contains two sides, that is, 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 is an offence to spend the money meant for one item on another.

“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 aesthetic lawns and the perimeters are being well kept. Also, security and water supply are adequately provided in the offices and residences of all Justices.

“Accommodation is being gradually provided for the few that are yet to get. There is none of the apex court Justices without an 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.

“The high cost of electricity tariff and diesel are a national problem. 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.

“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.”

<<The Nation>>