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Reps mull budget increase for National Judicial Institute in 2021

...To partner NJC, others on courts automation

The House of Representatives is considering increment in the budgetary allocation to the National Judicial Institute (NJI) in the 2021 fiscal year to enable the agency achieve its mandate in the face of the daunting challenges posed by the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic.

Chairman, House Committee on Federal Judiciary, Onofiok Luke (PDP, Akwa Ibom), gave this indication on Monday when he led other members of the Committee to oversight function at NJI Headquarters in Abuja.

Luke said the legislature was committed to repositioning the judiciary for equitable and quick dispensation of justice in the COVID-19 and post COVID-19 eras, taking into consideration the demands of the time; the guidelines and the provisions of the protocols that have been set by government.

He noted that the main purpose of the oversight was to determine ways that the legislature can assist the Institute to be able to train the country’s judicial officers and their supporting staff to live up to the task of delivering justice despite the hindrances caused by COVID-19.

The member representing Etinan/Nsit Ibom/Nsit Ubium Federal Constituency disclosed that the Committee would liaise with the National Judicial Council (NJC) and other Surperior Courts of records on how to automate court system now that social distance is the order of the day.

“We know right now in the world that everything has gone digital, in most countries we have virtual courts, internet courts and prior to today we have been advocating for the automation of court system but it has stare us in the face now and we can not run away from it.

“Our responsibility today is to think of ways that we can assist the Institute to be able to train our judicial officers and their supporting staff to be up to task to deliver justice in this era that everything has gone virtual.

“Our sole aim of been here is to try to see how we can put heads together and then try to reposition the judicial system through the NJI to achieve a greater purpose in post COVID-19 era as we go into 2021 especially as it has to do with 2021 budget because there has been changes in the world and these changes have affected every area of our lives.

“It is the commitment of the House of Representatives under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila to ensure that the judiciary is well positioned for efficient, speedy dispensation of justice. This is well captured in the legislative agenda of the House”, Luke stated.

Briefing the Committee, NJI Administrator, Rosaline Bozimo said the sum of N4.032 billion has been appropriated to the Institute in the 2020 budget while N1.609 billion has been released as at date.

Bozimo stated that the sum of N1.417 billion is provided in the 2020 budget for three ongoing projects awarded in 2018, which are : Expansion of Administrative Office, Rehabilitation of Administrative/ Upgrading of M.L Uwais Board Room and Expansion of NJI Clinic.

She further said, the Institute has from January – June, 2020 generated N118.723 million revenue from Rent deductions, Pay as You Earn (PAYE), Stamp duty, Value Added Tax (VAT) and Withholding Tax which have been remitted to appropriate tax authorities.

Responding to questions by some members of the Committee, NJI Director of Administration and Finance, Ibrahim Gambo explained that rent deduction is taken from salaries of staff who are quartered within the Institute.

“When you occupy government quarters, you pay rent. The rent is remitted to sub treasury of the Federation in the consolidated revenue of Federal Government at the CBN.

“Other sources of IGR is the training fee collected from participants at every workshop. Each participant paid N3000. We also remit it to sub treasury of the Federation but this year we have not held workshop”, Gambo said.

Members of the Committee led by the NJI Management Team, including the Secretary of the Institute, Abubakar Maidana inspected the ongoing projects and they expressed satisfaction with the spate of work.

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