Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, had failed to receive his pension nine months after his retirement. The scenario, Newsmen has learned, has aroused worries because the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who resigned on June 22, 2022, as the 16th Chief Justice of the top court on health grounds, was expected to be paid a severance payout of N2.5 billion by the Federal Government.
The National Judicial Council, NJC, approved a gratuity of 300% of their N3.38 million yearly basic salary as part of the severance packages for departing chief justices. This was a 300% increase above what past CJNs were paid after leaving office.
The N2.5 billion severance payment is to be paid in addition to the construction of a home in Abuja or any other city of their choice, plus a lump sum for furnishing.
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According to the findings, the NJC authorized the reviewed packages in 2019, with Tanko’s predecessor, Justice Walter Onnoghen, being the first beneficiary when he departed from service in 2019.
Regrettably, nine months after leaving duty at the age of 69, less than a year before his mandatory retirement age, the ex-CJN Tanko has been shuttling between Kaduna and Abuja for medical attention, with no indication when his claim would be paid. This is notwithstanding the advice in Sections 291 (2) and (3a-c) of the 1999 Constitution and Section 2 of the Pensions Rights of Judges Act.
Reacting to the development and the potential negative consequences for serving justices at a time when the Nigerian judiciary is dealing with a credibility crisis, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Reuben Atabo, who is based in Abuja, lamented on Thursday that there is nothing that works normally in Nigeria.
The late Military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha’s legal counsel, disclosed that the late general’s entitlements were not paid even after he died in active service.
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Atabo said: “The issue of entitlement of retired justices is lamentable. Has the late General Sani Abacha’s entitlement been paid since he died in 1999? There is no need for one to belabour himself over certain issues in Nigeria. If you advise the government on certain issues, they will not take them, they will do whatever they like.”
However, an Abuja-based legal practitioner and human rights activist, Barr. Godwin Sani Omagbogu, disagreed, stating that a retired Chief Justice of Nigeria receiving his entitlement is a well-known issue in government circles, supported by laws, and that the delay in payment may be an isolated issue, especially since provisions for settlement are always made in the national budget.
He urged that findings be made to determine the delay, after which a letter to the National Judicial Council might be issued reminding the judicial agency of its commitment and noting relevant legal regulations.
Attempts to reach the NJC’s spokesman, Soji Oye, were futile, as calls to his lines were not responded.
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