President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has assented bill extending the retirement age of judges from 65 to 70 years old.
The bill initially passed by the 9th National Assembly was declined by former President Muhammadu Buhari based on the legal advice of then-attorney general Abubakar Malami.
Titled “Constitution of the Federal Republican of Nigeria, 1999 (Fifth Alteration) (No.37) Bill, 2023”, the bill is President Tinubu’s first bill to sign since taking office on May 29.
The amendment law applies to high court judges and other classes of judicial officers. The legislation also aims to harmonize the pension rights of judicial officers specified in section 6(5) of the 1999 constitution (as amended), ensuring uniformity across the board.
The retirement age of justices of the Appeal and Supreme Courts in the country is already set at 70 years old, but the new legislation extends the retirement age of judges of the high court, federal capital territory, state high court, sharia court of appeal, customary court of appeal, and area court to 70 years of age.
According to Abiodun Oladunjoye, the director of information in the state house, Tinubu has shown a strong stance on the need to strengthen the judiciary. He said Tinubu’s administration would empower the judicial officers with necessary resources to enhance the judiciary’s effectiveness.
On May 2, the National Assembly directed its clerk, Amos Ojo, to transmit the bill for former President Buhari’s assent. However, then-Attorney General of the Federation, Malami advised against signing the bill.
In a memo dated May 23 addressed to the office of the chief of staff to the president, Malami said the bill appeared to be “far-reaching, unduly wide, ambiguous”, adding that it made no “justification” for the extension of retirement age and benefits for judges. Malami also said that approving the bill might lead to agitation for the extension of retirement age for Justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
The judiciary has long called for an increase in the retirement age of judicial officers to enhance the judiciary’s effectiveness. The amendment law comes at a time when some Nigerian lawyers are questioning the government’s commitment to an independent judiciary and the rule of law in the country.