The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, has disclosed that the Nigerian Judiciary is “yet to be free or truly independent” as the third arm of government.
Justice Ariwoola made the disclosure in a speech he delivered to mark the commencement of the court’s 2022/23 Legal Year and swearing-in of newly conferred Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), yesterday.
According to the CJN, while the Judiciary “to a very large extent, is independent in conducting its affairs and taking decisions on matters before it without any extraneous influence, the same cannot be said in the area of its finance.
“Nevertheless, I will make it clear to whoever that cares to listen that when the Nigerian Judiciary is assessed from the financial aspect, we are yet to be free or truly independent.
According to him, the annual budget of the Judiciary is still a far cry from what it ought to be, saying, “The figure is either stagnated for a long period of time or it goes on a progressive decline when placed side by side with the current realities in the market.
Recall that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration had recently approved an immediate improvement in the welfare of judicial officers. The approval, when effected, would be the first in nearly 14 years in the salaries of judges and would be coming about four months after the National Industrial Court (NIC) in Abuja made an order to that effect.
However, the CJN has identified “our extremely poor and pitiable salary package” as a “major issue of concern that equally has to be attended to with the urgency it requires”.
Ariwoola clearly stated that the Judiciary will never go cap-in-hand to any arm or agency of government to get what is rightly due to them.
Besides, the CJN called for law-stopping interlocutory injunction from reaching the apex court, just as he sought an overhaul of the criminal justice law as relating to police and other security agencies’ operations in the justice sector.
Meanwhile, 62 lawyers from both advocacy and academia took oath of office as Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs).