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Stop all cases from reaching Supreme Court, CJN charges Senate

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Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad has called for the amendment of appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as contained in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) by the Senate so that not all cases terminate in the apex court.

This, Justice Muhammad noted, would reduce the workload of the Supreme Court, especially the stress that are weighing on its Justices, lamenting that not only that the apex court is the busiest in the world but that despite spiteful remarks; the entire judiciary of the country still remains the best globally.

The CJN spoke at the weekend in Abuja when members of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, led by their chairman, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC Ekiti Central), paid him a courtesy visit in his office.

Justice Muhammad, who said the number of appeals pending and those received so far this year by the apex court are mind-bungling, further stressed the need for the federal legislature to amend the constitution to pave way for timely dispensation of justice in the country.

“Many of us don’t sleep for 12 hours as recommended by stress managers. We don’t write judgment merely by stating that so, so and so cases were filed by this and that, and end it up by saying appeal is hereby dismissed or upheld. We have to give reasons which are the bedrock of judgment writing.

‘’Nigerian Judiciary is one of the best in the world; and if nobody tells you, I am telling you today,” he said.

The CJN also bemoaned the shortfall in the required number of Supreme Court Justices as provided for in the 1999 Constitution.

He said: “The constitution empowers the Supreme Court to have 21 justices, yet we are having less than that number. We will have to appoint more justices to fill the gap soon.”

Besides, Justice Muhammad also identified gross underfunding as another problem not only facing the apex court, but the Judiciary as a whole.

His words: ’If you see amount allocated to the judiciary, it is far less than what is given to some ministries. Salaries of the judicial officers are also nothing to write home about over the years.

In his remarks, chairman of the committee, Senator Bamidele said both the Senate Standing Orders 2015 and the 1999 Constitution empower the Committee to oversight the federal judiciary.

‘’We are here today to keep faith with the time honoured tradition of the Committee’’, he said.

Senator Bamidele disclosed that all the 14 members of the committee are lawyers and that their names contained in the Legal Practitioners’ Roll of the Supreme Court.

He said it is a home coming, and indeed to interact and familiarise themselves with the CJN in order to find out the progress made by the judiciary so far as well as the challenges facing the Judiciary.

The chairman noted that since the Judiciary plays a very crucial role in the sustenance and deepening of democratic core values, the committee would make necessary interventions to strengthen and guarantee its independence as well as ensure its proper funding.

‘’The Committee would work in collaboration with the Judiciary to review laws and embark on reforms – including amendment to the Constitution – to ensure effective and efficient administration of justice’’, he stressed.

Similarly, the committee visited the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, who also asked the senators to intervene in the poor funding of the judiciary.

According to her, most of their buildings are collapsing and dilapidating virtually in the 16 divisions of the Court of Appeal.

Responding, Senator Bamidele, assured that the Senate shall ensure to review judges’ salaries and change narratives of poor funding of the judiciary.

 

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Nigerian governor promises to pay workers above N30,000 minimum wage

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Sanwo-Olu

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of  Lagos State has assured workers in the state that his government will pay above the mandatory N30,000 national minimum wage signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on April 24, 2019.

He gave the assurance when he received the leadership of the Lagos councils of Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Tuesday.

The Federal Government and organised labour are still embroiled in negotiation of the consequential adjustment of salaries of workers from grade level 07 to 17. The implementation of the minimum wage has, however, began in some states for workers on grade level 01 to 06.

Sanwo-Olu addressing the labour leaders said the implementation of the new wage would begin in Lagos when the Federal Government and labour unions conclude their ongoing negotiations. The state, he said, was drawing up its finances and creating additional revenue sources that would enable it sustain the new minimum wage payment.

Sanwo-Olu said his government understood the day-by-day challenges being faced by workers in the State to do their tasks, which informed the decision by his administration to pay more than the N30,000 minimum wage benchmark.

“As a government, we take the issue of minimum wage seriously. We know how important and germane it is to the wellbeing of our people. We are technically ready to implement the new minimum wage. I made commitment during my previous interactions with the labour unions before my assumption of office and I am still keeping to the promise made. However little it is, we will certainly pay more than N30,000 minimum wage.

Sanwo-Olu also said that the government would works with the the labour unions to float a post-retirement housing scheme that would enable workers of all cadres to apply and acquire permanent homes after leaving the service.

Meanwhile, the unions have demanded the payment of arrears of medical allowance, introduction of premium insurance for the workforce, timely pension payment for retired workers, mortgage scheme for housing, befitting labour secretariat and representation of workers’ unions in MDA boards’ appointments.

Gbenga Ekundayo, chairman, TUC Lagos council said that the labour unions had been meeting to develop a framework that would make the government capture traders in informal sector in the tax net. He assured that the labour unions’ recommendations would be submitted to the office of Head of Service in the weeks ahead.

 

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Tenure: Court Strikes Out Suit Seeking Fowler’s Sack as FIRS Boss

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Babatunde Fowler

A Federal High Court sitting in Kano has struck out a suit seeking the  sack of Dr. Babatunde Fowler as the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

The suit instituted by a legal practitioner Mr Stanley Okwara was thrown out by the court on the ground that the lawyer has no locus standi to institute it.

Okwara had dragged Fowler before the court praying among others, an order of court restraining him from further functioning as FIRS Chief Executive Officer.

He predicted his action on the claim that the tenure of office  of the defendant had expired since August 20 and has not been renewed by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The plaintiff also prayed the court to declare that the tenure of Fowler expired since August and that he should be made to refund all monies and allowances to the national treasury.

Okwara further demanded that the defendant be ordered to swear to an affidavit to confirm refund of public funds unlawfully collected from August till date.

However Fowler through his counsel Paul Erokoro SAN raised preliminary objection to the suit on the ground that the plaintiff has no locus standi to file the case.

Among others., Fowler contended that the suit did not disclose any cause of action and that the plaintiff did not also disclose any injury or damages he personally lost.

Justice Lewis-Allagoa in his ruling on the objection upheld the submission of of the defendant counsel.

The judge agreed that the plaintiff did not show how the disputed issue affected him more than any other Nigerians.

Justice Allagoa faulted the plaintiff suit due to the failure to show prre-action notice as required by law.

The Judge therefore held that the suit is incompetent,  frivolous, lacking in merit and substance and struck it out.

The arguments of counsel to the plaintiff Mr Johnmary Jideobi was rejected and thrown out.

The Court had last week ordered Fowler to appear before it to show cause why he should not be sacked for overstaying his tenure which expired on August 18, 2019.

In the originating summon  obtained by PRNigeria with Suit No FHC/KN/CS/141/2019, the FIRS Boss was dragged to Court over his continued stay in office after the expiration of tenure.

The plaintiff in the suit filed on September 18, 2019  also joined the Attorney General of the Federation as the second defendant.

The two defendants were given 30 days to explain why Fowler who was appointed on the 20th August, 2015, has not ceased to hold office as the Chairman of FIRS after the 20th August, 2019 in accordance with the “decision of the Supreme Court…and having regard to the combined provisions of Sections 3(2) (a), Section 4(a) and Section 11 (a)” of the agency.

The plaintiffs also sought to know whether the continuous stay of Fowler in the office “is not illegal in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in Ogbuinyinya & Ors. vs. Obi Okudo & Ors. (1979) All N.L.R. 105 and having regard to the combined provisions of Sections of the FIRS [Establishment] Act, 2007.

In the same vein, Okwara sought other reliefs including: “A declaration that the 1st Defendant has ceased to hold office as the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service after the 20th of August, 2019”; and that his continuous stay in the office is illegal.

He further sought “an order barring the 1st Defendant from further holding himself out as, laying claim to or exercising the powers and functions of, the Executive Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service unless he is re-appointed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“An order directing the 1st Defendant to return forthwith to the Treasury Single Account of the Federation all the salaries, emoluments and such other kindred monetary benefits he has been drawing on the purse of the Federal Inland Revenue Service and file an affidavit of compliance within 14 days after the delivery of judgment in this suit.”

The Plaintiff also asked that Fowler be caused to obey any other decision that the Court may deem fit to make in the entire circumstances of the case.

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Family Planning: Group targets 120m Nigerian women in 2020

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Pathfinder International, a sexual and reproductive agency operating in Nigeria with focus  on Advance Family Planning, AFP advocacy has revealed her projection to capture 120 million women and girls of reproductive age on affordable and accessible family planning, FP services by the year 2020.
The agency’s Country Director, Dr. Farouq Jega disclosed this in Abuja during a three-day annual review and work planning meeting with the State Advocacy Working Groups and FP Coordinators from 12 AFP states.
According to Jega, the agency was saddled with main responsibility of advocating for better funding, policies and better enabling environment for FP in Nigeria.
He said the essence of the meeting was to assess the outcome and impact of activities of the 2019 as well as plan for  the next year which is going to be 8th year of the agency on the project.
“FP 2020 is part of global initiative and the goal is to increase access to an addition of  120 million women and girls in need of FP services but hindered by logistics.
“We are working with advocacy working  groups in 12 states of the Federation and they are here. What we are doing is to design a strategy for our advocacy engagement in the next year,” he stressed.
Jega also disclosed that the Pathfinder International was also working at national level to raise awareness about the importance of funding for FP,  adding that  the awareness is not limited  to 12 states, but beyond.
According to him, advocacy strategy is to engage with government, private sectors and other partner stakeholders to ensure  collective  provision for family planning services in the country.
Jega said the three tier of  Governments  are doing a lot on budgetary allocation but requires prompt release of  FP budgeted fund and bridge  funding gap for  high quality services.
“If we are able to successfully advocate and the government at all levels put in the required funds, obviously, better services will be provided and the FP commodities will be available sufficiently.
“FP is a very veritable development tool, it helps  health of the woman in the family and  also helps in economic development  and well being. These are what the country stands to gain if they make strategic investment in FP,” he further stressed.
Jega added  that the agency is committed  to the success of the  advocacy working group .
While saying that Nigeria has enough laws that backed FP, the Pathfinder country Director said what is important is to back those law with adequate budget line and create awareness in the minds of the Nigerians that FP is good  thing that improves  the well being of individuals and country at large.
He stressed the need to embark on aggressive enlightenment about the value of FP, and advise mother to embrace child spacing for improving Contraceptive prevalence rate.
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