The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila has pledged the readiness of the Green Chamber to address some of the challenges faced by magistrates across the country.
The Speaker made the commitment when representatives of the Magistrates Association of Nigeria visited him in his office at the National Assembly complex, Abuja, Nigeria’s capital on Wednesday.
According to Gbajabiamila, a situation where magistrates have poor working conditions would not augur well for the judiciary, considering the enormous task before them.
“Based on what you said, something clinical has to be done. I wonder why the situation is like this. We know your work. We know how much you put in this profession.
“I’m just surprised at your condition of work. Obviously, something needs to be done,” Gbajabiamila told a team from the Magistrates Association of Nigeria who paid him a visit on Wednesday.
The Speaker said the House would have to unravel the reason why magistrates are not referred to as judicial officers in Section 318 of the constitution, as brought to his attention by the association.
“We just started the amendment (of the constitution). We’ll look at it and bring it in conformity with the best practices in the world. We would do everything we can to address that issue.
“You talked about the fact that your laws are obsolete. Please help us to make our work easier. We will work with the relevant committees to begin to look at those laws. Help us write something so that we can review it. We need your inputs.
“In terms of your salary structure, that’s very important because of the sensitivity of the work you do. All the issues that you brought up are important to the administration of criminal justice. The earlier you get these things across to us the better for us all.”
Addressing the Speaker earlier, the president of the association, Malam Saidu Umar, said they have been grappling with poor working conditions over the years.
He said with the coming of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), their work became enormous, but that their remuneration remains nothing to write home about.
In a similar development, the Speaker has assured that the 9th House would continue to prioritize the health sector with a view to ensuring better service delivery for Nigerians.
Speaker Gbajabiamila made the assurance while addressing a delegation of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) led by its president, Prof. Innocent Ujah, who paid him a courtesy call in his office on Wednesday.
In his address, the Speaker assured that the House would fast-track the legislative process on a bill to repeal and reenact the Nigeria Medical and Dental Council Act.
Part of the measures, the Speaker said, is that the House would look at the issue of the outstanding allowances of the Nigerian health workers.
“Healthcare is one of the major areas of focus of the 9th House Legislative Agenda. We will continue to stand with you and anything that will help our country move forward. You can’t talk about nation-building without getting your healthcare delivery right.
“Just be rest assured that you have in this institution a friend. We will work with you. I must commend you that under the difficult terrain you work in, you’re still able to do your job,” he said.
The Speaker also supported the idea of a bank for the health sector as suggested by the NMA president, saying the House would look into it.
“We’ll like to explore the idea of a health bank further. We’ll work with our doctors in the House to know how we can go about it. If you can give us a little synopsis of it, we’ll work with it.”
He said the House would look at the suggestion to review the retirement age for medical doctors and other health workers.
“On the increase in budget allocation, I believe it has been increased to some extent. I don’t know the exact figure right now, but we’ll look at it. If there’s need to review it further, we’ll do that.”
Against insinuations in some quarters that the health sector has the least budget of about N43 billion, Gbajabiamila said the sector gets over N1 trillion budgetary allocation.
Earlier, the NMA President, Prof. Ujah, who is also the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Health Sciences, Otukpo, said the visit was to strengthen the relationship between the Speaker’s office and the association.
He pleaded with the Speaker for the House to come up with good legislation for the health sector; enhance the remuneration and allowances of medical personnel; ensure new retirement age of consultants at 70 and others at 65; improve funding and budgetary allocation for the sector as well as establish a bank for health as in the case of agriculture and industry.
On his part, the chairman of the House Committee on Healthcare Services, Rep. Tanko Yusuf Sununu, a medical doctor, thanked the Speaker for all his interventions in the sector and said the NMA team was on a thank-you visit.
He then presented an award of excellence given to the Speaker by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) at its Annual General Meeting held recently.