Let me start by saying compliments of the season to all Nigerians.
Yesterday, I stumbled on a very short but disturbing video of two Judges who have a lot in common. One is a male and the other a female. The male retired as a Federal High Court Judge in July, 2022 and the female retired from a State High Court in September 2022. In the video, both were seen complaining about poor conditions of service in terms of remuneration and non payment of their severance benefits. To cap it all, both are husband and wife!
The husband who retired from the Federal High Court was complaining about the paltry sum retired Judges are being paid while the wife who retired as a State High Court Judge was complaining about non payment of any sum since she left the Bench in September, 2022. As a matter of fact, her September Salary remained unpaid as at the time of the interview.
I am sure some of my readers may be wondering as to what makes the case of Judges different from that of millions of Nigerians who have retired from public service for years with their severance benefits as well as pensions remaining unpaid. The reason is not farfetched! As Judges, the stability of any polity rests squarely on the quality (in terms of fairness) of judgements delivered by the courts. If Judges are put at the mercy of litigants, most especially the highest bidders, then such a country is finished.
Like I said earlier, it’s nothing to be considered as unheard of in Nigeria that civil servants, after putting in about 35 years of service, are owed gratuities and pensions. I have a friend who retired in 2015 and he was still waiting for his gratuity till yesterday. Meanwhile, politicians who serve in political offices for 4-8 years pay themselves very obscene severance packages!
I am surprised Nigerians don’t cry out in situations such as this until drama of ‘cash in Judges’ houses’ rent the air. You cannot claim to be fighting corruption by preparing fertlile grounds for corruption seeds to germinate and be nurtured to full growth. I’m surprised causative factors are relegated to the background in our quest to bequeath to ourselves a society that’s worthy of respect world wide.
I don’t think we should wait until the Judges start having recourse to ‘pay as you go’ like most civil servants in Nigeria do. They ensure they have converted enough of the State’s commonwealth for their use before they leave office. If, as expected, their gratuities and pensions fail to come after leaving the service, they already have a lot to fall back on.
The Judges are in more distressing position because they’re always seen in court but not heard in public. In other words, they cannot ‘down tools’ in protest against non payment of their salaries or poor conditions of service. We cannot be doing the same thing the same way and be expecting a different result! Only a madman does that.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) should fight this cause on behalf of the Judges. The Judges in the video were able to speak out because they’re retired. Why do we always like to be wicked to ourselves?