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Senate investigates non-payment of judicial officers’ retirement entitlements

The Senate on Tuesday mandated its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to investigate non-payment of all entitlements of retired judicial officers who served states’ governments across the country.

The committee was directed to report back within four weeks.

The mandate to the committee followed a motion by Sen. Chukwuka Utazi (PDP-Enugu) at plenary in Abuja.

The upper chamber also directed the committee to review the laws impeding the harmonisation of the processes and prompt payment of retirement benefits of all judicial officers in the country.

It urged the National Judicial Council (NJC) to harmonise the payment of judicial officers to enable the council take up the responsibility of effecting payment.

Presenting the motion, Utazi said that the retired Chief Judge of Anambra, Justice Godwin Ononiba, had in December, 2016, led 31 other retired judges to sue the state governor for non-payment of their entitlements.

He said that the suit was an indication of the plight of retired judicial officers, particularly judges of state high courts.

“The Constitution deliberately placed the salaries of Federal and State judicial officers as first-line charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund as a way of securing independence of the judiciary.

“It is disturbing that while salaries are routed through NJC, retirement benefits of state judicial officers of superior courts of record as recognised by Section 6 of the Constitution were left to states.

“This has created a situation where retired state judges are left to their fate as state governments rarely make payments as and when due,’’ he said.

The lawmaker said that it was expedient for the matter to be tackled as part of the present administration’s anti-corruption drive.

He explained that addressing the matter would go a long way in encouraging judicial officers to serve without the fear of being abandoned upon retirement.

Contributing, other lawmakers said that it was disheartening for judicial officers to invest their youthful age in serving the nation, only to be denied their entitlements upon retirement.

The President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, put the motion to voice vote and it was unanimously adopted.

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

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