Chief Justice of Nigeria Ibrahim Muhammad has clashed with several Supreme Court justices over their welfare.
In a leaked letter, about 14 aggrieved justices of the apex court accused the CJN of abandoning his responsibilities and diverting funds meant for the running of the court.
They complained about their accommodation, vehicles, electricity tariff, supply of diesel, internet services to justices’ residences, training for justices and epileptic electricity supply to the court.
They also accused the CJN of receiving their demands without acting “after several persistent requests” to hold a meeting which was finally held on March 31, where a welfare committee was set up.
Among other things, the Supreme Court Justices are demanding to know what had become of funds set aside for the training of justices, alleging that they were denied the usual two to three international workshops annually.
Reacting to the allegations on Tuesday, the CJN stated that the apex court, like other establishments in the country, is affected by “a devastating economic crunch.”
As a result of the economic crunch, Muhammad explained in a statement signed by his spokesman Ahuraka Isah that the leadership of the Supreme Court could no longer meet some of its obligations to the Justices, especially in the area of welfare.
The CJN, while berating his colleagues for bringing their complaints to the public, said the apex court was facing a cash crunch.
The statement read, “Judges in all climes are to be seen and not heard, and that informed why the CJN refrained from joining issues until a letter, said to be personal, is spreading across the length and breadth of the society. This was akin to dancing naked at the market square by us with the ripple effect of the said letter.
“The Supreme Court does not exist outside its environment; it is also affected by the economic and socio-political climate prevailing in the country. Besides that, the Apex Court has to a larger extent, been living up to its constitutional responsibility.”
Muhammad explained that the Supreme Court this year budgeted to re-roof and rehabilitate its complex built over 30 years ago.
According to him, two Supreme Court Justices died within the period under consideration while four retired costing the court some funds in form of gratuities and allowances.
He added, “Two weeks ago, eight Supreme Court Justices were nominated for a workshop in London as the court cannot take all of them there at once otherwise the job would suffer. They would be going in batches.
“Accommodations are being gradually provided for the few that are yet to get them. There is none of the Apex Court Justices without SUV and backup cars. If any of them were purchased but refurbished, the external and internal auditors are here in the court to take those that bought them up over it.
“The high cost of electricity tariff and diesel is a national problem. The Chief Registrar might have budgeted for N300 per litre but diesel is now selling for over N700 per litre and therefore has to find a way around it without even bringing it to the attention of the CJN. But there is no way the generator would be put off if the Court is sitting.
“Internet services have been restored to Justices’ residences and chambers, just as some allowances have been paid to them. The CJN held a meeting with his brother Justices last Thursday and another one is due to hold this week.”
Meanwhile, the Body of Benchers has set up a seven-man committee to look into the matter.