The Federal Judicial Service Commission has said that poor budgetary allocation to the judiciary was stalling the appointment of new justices for the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.
Secretary to the Commission, Bassey E. Bassey who disclosed this when the House Committee on Federal Judiciary visited the Commission said at the moment, the Supreme Court was operating with only 12 Justices, with lots of vacancies to be filled.
Bassey said the Judiciary in the country was struggling because the appointment of new Justices for the Appeal Court and Supreme Court has to wait as a result of lack of funds to take care of them.
He said ‘This year our budget is the least, very small and inspite of operational activities our budget is extremely small. The Judiciary is struggling because the appointment of new Justices to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court has to wait.
“Before you appoint them, you have to make adequate preparations for their welfare and as they are going, vacancies are created and they have to be filled. That is why bulk of the budgets will always be given to the Courts.
“The budget has always been an issue. In 2019, the budget was N100 billion and we have the 2020 slightly above the one of 2019 which is N110 billion. Taking into consideration some of the priority areas like appointment of Justices of Supreme Court. You discover that this is not enough.
“The Supreme Court as at today has 12 Members and they are over working themselves. It is only in Nigeria that we have a Justice of Supreme Court working all through the week. We have to ease their stress because they are elderly.”
In his remarks, Chairman of the House Committee on Federal Judiciary, Rep. Onofiok Luke expressed the determination of the House to synergise and Commission towards efficient justice system in the country as contained in the third schedule of the Constitution.
He said; “We here on a familiarisation visit to acquaint ourselves with the workings of the Commission, the modus operandi and equally the challenges posed and whatever the Commission feel to share with the legislature to make the legislature assist the Commission to realize it’s core mandate.
“The House under the leadership of Femi Gbajabiamila has stated clearly the need for justice sector reform and that is well captured in the legislative agenda. We know the response of the Federal Judiciary Service Commission in ensuring the much talked about Judicial sector reform.
“We are equally here to hear from the Commission in the areas the legislature can help strengthen the Commission so as to deliver on its core mandate. Let us use this opportunity to appreciate the Commission in ensuring discipline in the judiciary.
“The Commission in its advisory role as enshrined in the constitution to the National Judicial Service Council (NJC) has ensured that men and women of proven integrity and character are nominated as heads of Federal Courts in the country.
“This Committee commends the Commission for its effective and effective exercise of it’s responsibility. We said this in the light of the recent appointment into the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the President of the Court of Appeal, Office of the Justice of the High Court and President of the National Industrial Court. The persons you advised NJC to appoint they have proven to be men of character and intellect.
“We know that the world has changed, things are no more the same because of the COVID-19 pandemic that we are faced with. It is the thinking of this Committee that we are open, we want to partner with the Commission so that the Commission in conjunction with any arm of the Judiciary can create an enabling working environment for Judicial Staff and equally have partnership with the JUSUN so that we can have an effective and efficient Judicial system performing in the post COVID-19 era.
“We in the judiciary has made commitment, if there are areas that need Constitional amendment to make sure that the judiciary is well positioned to discharge justice in this post COVID-19 era the Committee on Judiciary and the entire legislature will do it’s best so that we reposition judiciary for quick and equitable dispensation of justice in the post COVID-19 era.
“We heard clamour from JUSUN about the stress they have to encounter in coming to the two exam centres. If it is possible, decentralization be taken to the different zones. The examination centre be decentralized to six geopolitical zones so that they can have easy access to do their exams.”