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Onofiok Champions Welfare Of Magistrates In Nigeria

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary, Mr Onofiok Luke received the National Executive Committee of Magistrates Association of Nigeria (MAN) to discuss various issues affecting the body in Abuja today.

Mr Luke commended the body for its contribution to the nation. “I want to start by recognising your role in ensuring the security of lives and property and stabilising the polity both at the state and national levels. I also appreciate the effort of the Judiciary, which you are part and parcel of, in ensuring the growth and enthronement of democracy in Nigeria.”

He acknowledged the magnitude of responsibility for the Magistrate’s Courts and assured that his Committee will look critically into the demands made by the body.

“I have heard the position you have canvassed today. I want to say we did not avert our minds to this when we were coming up with some proposals to reposition the Judiciary and create a better living conditions for judicial officers . Because you cannot talk about repositioning the Judiciary if you don’t think about the welfare and wellbeing of the administrators. That’s why at this Committee, individually and collectively, we have been championing the security and welfare of Judicial officers”, Luke added.

Luke stated the effort that has been made in the area of administration of criminal justice law. He said, “The Administration of Criminal Justice Act is a piece of legislation that I believe will change the face of criminal jurisprudence and administration of criminal justice in the country.’

Addressing other issues, Luke condemned the kidnapping of judicial officers. He said it is saddening that these officers are not provided enough security. “This is why we have been advocating the welfare and security of judicial officers so that they can discharge their responsibilities without fear.”

“We are proposing some amendments to the National Judicial Council to try to see how we can get the council strengthened so that it can achieve its responsibilities and its core mandate”.

“We are proposing a constitutional amendment to raise the age of retirement of judicial officers in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court to 75 and that of the High Court from 65 to 70. So we will be looking at the magistracy to see what is obtainable there and try to see how we can harmonize the position. Like wine, the older it becomes, the sweeter it taste. In this profession, the older you get, the wiser you become and the more productive you are”, Luke further stated.

Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary, Mr Isa Dederi told the Magistrate Association of Nigeria that the Committee will act on their request.

“Let me assure you that you have come to the right quarters. He (Luke) has so far given us the desired leadership in this Committee. Let me also interestingly inform you that he has been instrumental to bringing up a lot of bills in this Assembly, which when passed, will bring necessary reforms to the Judiciary”

National President of Magistrate Association of Nigeria, Mr S. S. Umar said the visit was pertinent given the ongoing constitutional amendments.

“What we are hoping is that during this amendment, the magistrates should be treated as judicial officers, but not to be equated with judges. Administration of Criminal Justice Act is in place now and it unifies the criminal system in the whole country and there are many reforms that are coming up now and we wish to have a single service structure applicable to all magistrates in the country. This cannot be done unless with a constitutional amendment.”

“Our members are working under a terrible and deplorable conditions. So, it is only through this avenue and forum that we can maybe highlight our problems to Honourable Members”.

“If the salary structure can be harmonised, maybe the Chief Magistrate or any Magistrate that attains level 16 or 17, should be treated as a Permanent Secretary of that State.

Accompanying the National President of MAN to the visit were the National General Secretary, Chukwuemeka Nweke, Vice President North West, Benjamin Hassan, National Financial Secretary, Menene Poromon, National Treasurer, Oghre Oluwatoyin Gwendolyn, Assistant National Secretary, Abundaga Habila Ali and National Public Relations Officer, Adamu Jajere.

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