The House of Representatives on Thursday stepped down a motion seeking to increase the budgetary allocation of the judicial officers and provision of Special Intervention Funds for the development of the judiciary arm of government.

The resolution was passed sequel to opposing opinion canvassed by some lawmakers on the motion titled: ‘Need to address the deteriorating working conditions of Judicial Officers’ sponsored by Hon. Onofiok Luke, who warned against the politicisation of the remuneration of the judicial officers.

“The House notes the various news reports of the letter written by the Honourable Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria to the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria complaining about the poor welfare conditions and the operational challenges facing the apex court.

“The House also notes that the letter specifically complained about lack of accommodation for newly appointed justices of the Supreme Court, epileptic power supply to the courts and the justices’ residence, lack of internet services, lack of training and workshops, non-provision of legal assistants to the justices, poor healthcare delivery and unavailability of drugs at the court’s clinic, and other operational challenges, which have negatively impacted on the performance of judicial functions thus, delaying justice delivery with its attendant effect on the maintenance of law and order in the country.

“The House further notes that the issues raised are as a result of the persistent underfunding of the judiciary despite its increasing workforce and growing responsibilities, as well as inflationary conditions in Nigeria.

“The House is aware that the remuneration of judicial officers was last reviewed in 2008 by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) when the official exchange rate was N117.74 to $1 whereas the naira has considerably depreciated.

“The House is also aware that given the critical role of the Judiciary in deciding disputes between persons, judicial officers are under huge legal and moral responsibility to meet these demands in the face of their meagre remuneration and poor working and living conditions.

“The House is worried that there is an acute shortage of infrastructure in the judiciary as judicial officers still record proceedings in long hand and sittings are conducted in dilapidated or unconducive court houses across the country.

“The House observes that some judicial officers do not have legal assistants whereas they deserve at least two legal assistants just as executive members and lawmakers have different aides.

“The House is cognizant that the Judiciary is faced with enormous and expanding responsibilities of providing judicial services to an increasing population of 200 million people, building new courts and refurbishing the existing ones across the Federation, engagement of new judicial officers and staff, which are all for better access to effective and efficient justice delivery to the people.

“The House is disturbed that the Judiciary is the least funded of the Three Arms of Government and its budgetary allocation has not increased much in the past 12 years.

“The House is concerned that the poor funding of the Judiciary leaves it vulnerable to comprise and abuse, and may provide avenues for corruption, thus exposing the country to grave perils,” Hon. Onofiok noted.

In his intervention, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Idris Wase, who expressed reservation over the comment that nobody cares for the judicial officers argued that the 9th Assembly has done a lot on judicial reforms and increased the budgetary allocation to the judiciary over the past three years.

To this end, the Speaker ruled that the motion should be deferred to Tuesday next week for consideration.

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