By Glory Abuh-Adejoh
The National Assembly (NASS), on Tuesday urged the National Industrial Court, to dismiss a suit seeking upward review of judges salaries.
The Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice ( AGF) and National Judicial Commission ( NJC), who are also defendants in the suit instituted by Chief Sebastien Tar, SAN, aligned themselves with NASS objection.
The Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission ( RMAFC),the third defendant was however, not present nor had a legal representative during Tuesday’s proceeding.
When the matter slated for hearing before Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae came up, the claimant’s lead counsel Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, informed the court that they were ready to proceed, subject to the convenience of the court.
Charles Yoila, NASS counsel proceeded to notify the court that he filed a motion on notice on June 24, seeking for deeming order and extension of time within which he had filed his notice of preliminary objection, memorandum of appearance and other accompanying documents.
After he moved the terms of the application and there was no objections from the other counsel, the court deemed the processes as properly filed and served.
The AGF’s counsel, Ekene Elodimou also submitted that he filed a notice that they were also out of time and said that they had filed a notice before the court to that effect.
He also said that he filed a counter-affidavit,written address and memorandum of appearance and urged the court to deem it as properly filed and served.
Kunle Adegoke, SAN, the counsel to NJC equally informed the court that he had filed processes dated June 24
Awomolo on his part said that his team had responded to the three defendants counter affidavits
Awomolo also said that in addition to the responses, he had before the court an originating summons, prayed for some corrections to be effected and proceeded to adopt the four processes.
When there was no objection, the court deemed all the processes properly filed and served.
By way of adumbration, Awomolo said that the originating summons related principally as to whether NASS and RMAFC had the power to refuse, fail and neglect to upwardly review basic salaries and allowances of judicial officers.
Awomolo in addition prayed the court to compel them to perform their statutory duties by not neglecting the welfare of the judicial officers.
As part of his submissions, Awomolo said ” I also urge the court to stop the AGF from blowing hot and cold as he publicly mentioned recently how the judges have been neglected and at the same time in his counter-affidavit, he said the reliefs the claimant sought are non ministerial responsibilities”
He stated that the AGF should be held responsible concerning his words on the conditions of the judicial officers which had been neglected for 14 years.
He also urged the court to compel the defendants to comply with immediate effect if the reliefs are granted by the court.
The defendants’ counsel beginning with Yoila also by way of adumbration argued their opposition, with Yoila raising issues that bordered on locus standi, lack of jurisdiction of the court and failure of the claimant not issuing a pre-action notice before instituting the suit.
He said that the claimant was not a judicial officer and that he had no right to institute the suit as he was not a proper party.
He therefore urged the court to dismiss the suit
Elodimou also submitted his objection raised in his written address and on point of law similar to Yoila’s.
His argument also challenged on lack of jurisdiction of the court.
He also argued that the claimant had not disclosed sufficient interest to bring the suit before the court.
He added that the judicial officers did not have the right to demand for salary increment themselves, but rather through the statutory body responsible for their welfare which is the NJC and that only the NJC could demand for increment on their behalf.
He concluded his argument by urging the court to dismiss the suit.
Adegoke, NJC’s counsel argument stated that the reliefs sought were inconsistent with the Legislative Officers Act and Constitution of Nigeria
He said that the Act had settled provisions on its schedule and therefore that the suit should also be dismissed.
The judge after listening to the submissions of all the counsel adjourned the matter until July 15, for judgment.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the matter was mentioned on June 6, and NASS had requested for an adjournment for parties to explore the possibility of settling the matter out of court.
However, on June 22 the date the court slated for report of settlement, the defendants turned around and prayed the court for an adjournment for hearing instead.
NAN also reports that the suit as instituted by Tar is seeking review of judges salaries.
He has on his team of counsel over 90 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) led by Awomolo and over 50 members of the outer bar led by Edward Erhinure.
Some of the the SAN are Kanu Agabi, J.B Daudu Festus Idepefo, Ukala ,Emeka Ngige, Rabana Lawan, Mike Ozekhome, Tawo Tawo, Hassan Liman, Peter Apeh, Ogwu Onoja, Offiong Bassey Offiong.
Others are Usman Sule, Olumiwa Akonboro, Emeka Ejiaba, Chukwuma Ekomaru, Godwin Obla, Gordy Uche, Anthony Malik, E.K Asiaka, J.O Asoluka, Harris Ogbole.
S. Musa, Mose Ebute, Reuben Atabo, T.D Pepe, Alex Ejesieme, Henry Akunebu, A.T Kehinde, Ibrahim Bawa, J.J Usman, Matter Bukar and Audu Anuga
Tae alleges in his statement of facts that the justices and judges currently earns about N3 million and below as their minimum monthly salaries which was last reviewed in 2008.