JUST IN: Crisis in Supreme Court has opened Can of worms of corruption in the judicial system

CJN Tanko Muhammad 

The crisis of confidence rocking the Supreme Court of Nigeria has opened the gate to deeper rot in federal and state judiciary, Saturday Tribune report.

Justices of the apex court accused the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, of failing to take care of their welfare while taking care of himself and his family.

One of the highlights of the petition authored by the 14 justices is the claim that eight of them recently admitted to the court have not given accommodation and befitting mobility that should pre-date their appointments.

All the justices also complained about a comprehensive poor welfare. In the midst of the Supreme Court drama, words have leaked from the state judiciary that the woes of welfare are not limited to the federal judicial officers.

A judge revealed an alleged sharp practice by the leadership of state divisions, shortchanging new appointees by deceiving inspection teams from the National Judicial Council (NJC) with houses and cars rented for the purpose of misleading the inspectors and returning them once the “stage show” is over.

Before judges are appointed to state judicial divisions, it is an established procedure for NJC to send inspection teams, to ascertain the claims that the housing and mobility requirements are met.

It has now come into the open that Chief Judges deliberately deceive the inspection teams with houses and cars not meant to be given to new judges after their appointments but presented solely for the purpose of convincing the Council to grant the appointment requests.

When state divisions request for more judges, a Council source told Saturday Tribune that before the number of slots to be given is determined, the number of the judges in the employment of such divisions is first considered alongside the workload.

If the workload, based on returns filed by the Chief Judge, is deemed too much for those in service, an inspection team would be raised to visit the affected state division and check if the welfare requirement is met.

The first to be considered on ground, according to the source, is a befitting accommodation, then a befitting car with engine and chassis numbers recorded, then a wellequipped library, a befitting chamber and a court room which should not be shared with colleagues. In the report of the inspection team, photos of the things made available are attached for the plenary of the Council to consider.

If satisfactory, slots commensurate with the available welfare package are granted to the said state division.

The accommodation is expected to be spacious. Words from state judiciary are suggesting a pattern of crooked arrangement.

While the NJC teams are expected to liaise with the CJs during such visits, CJs mostly hand them over to their Chief Registrars (CRs) as disclosed by a Council source, who had led a lot of inspection tours.

While it could not be established if CJs are part of the alleged grand deception, the question being asked is if CRs will on their own pull such stunts despite being the chief administrative and accounting officers of their divisions.

The gap being exploited in this alleged unwholesome practice is the fact that new judges, who should be the beneficiaries of the displayed cars and houses, don’t get to know what are presented against their names, considering that their appointments are post-inspection, robbing them the opportunity of knowing what was presented in their names, and what they eventually got.

The pre-appointment inspection is now likely to become a twice assignment with another conducted post-appointment for NJC to be certain that what is displayed for inspection, is what is given the judges, after appointment. Many stakeholders are shocked that the accommodation and mobility issue could have as victims, senior judicial officers in the land.

The justices claimed in their letter to the CJN, that the immediate Chief Registrar of the court, Ms Hadizatu Uwani Mustapha, bought them refurbished cars, instead of the usual new and poor accommodation, a practice alleged to be prevalent in state divisions. Ms Mustapha, head-hunted from the Sharia Court of Appeal by former CJN, Onnoghen, was yet to react to the allegation.

A fuming NJC top-shot asked judges relatively new on their job and allocated unbefitting cars and accommodation, to petition the Council.

The source confirmed that the inspection is usually once and pre-appointments but promised the Council would do the needful if such situations are brought to the current leadership.

Assuring that no affected judge would be victimised, the source recalled a situation where a state division presented a Corolla car and accommodation in a rented block of flats for new judges being sought.

According to him, the state’s appointment request was returned. The senior official said the development is an eye-opener for the Council in the area of inspection, noting that inspection was introduced in the first place when it was discovered that state divisions were lying about welfare provision.

Meanwhile, Saturday Tribune gathered that a peace meeting has been called for this weekend between Justice Tanko and his colleagues to resolve their differences.

A new dimension to the crisis is the allegation–which is not included in the viral petition–that the fund that should go into the justices’ welfare is being poured into capital projects deemed as the proverbial white elephant, for which stakeholders are now calling for a forensic probe.

Top on the fresh complaints is the Hall of Fame being built by Tanko’s leadership within the Supreme Court complex. Insiders are worried that funding the project is taking precedent over justices’ allowances and other welfare matters. Media aide to the CJN, Ahuraka Isah, confirmed the existence of the project but promised to address all the issues holistically.

Another issue riling the stakeholders is the approval for multi-billion Naira new headquarters for the Customary Court of Appeal in Abuja when the current one is still befitting of the court.

An explanation is being demanded on how funding is sourced despite claims that there was no money to meet the justices’ need.

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