The Attorney- General of Ekiti State Olawale Fapohunda has said that serving in the nations Judiciary is not a call to penury. Fapohunda who was the key note speaker at a public presentation of the Book ‘Ministering Justice’ said that ‘while I agree that there can be no justification for any form of judicial corruption, I am unable to accept that to serve on the bench is a call to national service and penury.’
Fapohunda said that the position in some quarters that a judicial officer who is unable to survive on his merger salary should resign from the bench is ridiculous and unrealistic. He said that ‘It is also self-defeating to continue to preach integrity on the bench, without removing the temptations that comes with poor conditions of service’
Elaborating further on the issue of judicial corruption, Fapohunda said that judicial salaries must be set at a comparatively high public-service level in order to remove both the temptation to corruption and public contemplation of the possibility of such temptation.
He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for establishing the Presidential Committee on the Review of Judicial Salaries and Allowances but said that it is important that the report of the Committee is implemented to the letter.
Fapohunda said that the Committee found inter alia that between May 1999 and March 2011, the Federal Government reviewed the salaries and allowances of Public Servants and Political office holders on four occasions specifically in 2000, 2005, 2007 and 2011. However, the salaries of judicial officers were only reviewed twice during the same period. As a result, judicial officers have been on the same salary structure for more than 10 years.
He stressed that the guarantee of adequate conditions of service is not meant for the benefit of the judiciary but that financial security is a means to the end of judicial independence, and is therefore for the benefit of us all.
Commenting on the suspension of Honourable Justice Walter Onnognen, Fapohunda said that if there is one positive development about the debates around the matter of the Presidency and the Judiciary, it is the priceless publicity that has been gifted to the Justice sector. He hoped that when all the dust is settled, the justice sector will not return to business as usual but the long overdue task of undertaking far reaching reforms in the justice sector will commence in earnest.
The book ‘Ministering Justice’ was written by Olasupo Shashore San and Dr. Ahmed Bello. Present at the Public presentation were Former Attorneys- General of Lagos State Hariat Balogun and Ade Ipaye.. Kazeem Adeniji, Attorney- General, Lagos State, Former Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, Prof Chidi odinkalu