The leadership of the Christian Lawyers Association, CLASFON, has expressed support for the ongoing calls for complete compliance with the constitutional provision as regards the Judiciary’s financial autonomy in Nigeria.
In a statement signed by the National President and Secretary of CLASFON, Arome Okwori and Tunji Omole, the group also pointed out the dangers the lingering strike portends to Nigeria.
The statement reads:
“The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) on 6th April 2021 embarked on a nationwide industrial action to press home its demand that the judiciary arm of government both at the Federal and state levels must be allowed to enjoy its constitutional right of financial autonomy as provided in Section 81(3) and Section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
Beside these constitutional provisions concerning the financial autonomy and independence of the judiciary, there is a subsisting court order validating the reason for the on-going industrial action embarked on by JUSUN way back in JUSUN v. AG Federation & Ors (Unreported) Suit No. FHC/ABJ/667/13. This court order has now subsisted for nearly 7 years without any challenge.
One expects that with all these avalanche of constitutional and judicial authorities preserving the financial autonomy and independence of the judiciary, the Governors of the various States in the Nigerian Federation being the people’s representatives should abide by the dictates of the Constitution. However, this is not the case as a large percentage of the Nigerian Governors have refused, neglected or failed to uphold the independence of the judiciary in their States by refusing the judiciary a free hand to prepare its own budgets and have unfettered access to its own funds which same rights the executive and legislative arms of governments in those states do enjoy.
JUSUN in its determined bid to ensure the rule of law regarding the independence of the judiciary has repeatedly issued warnings that it will have no choice but to down tools if the executive arm of the government continues to behave “like a bull in a china store” in its inglorious efforts at muzzling the judiciary. Not deterred by these warnings, the Governors have continued to abuse their powers by ensuring that the independence and financial autonomy of the judiciary remains a mirage.
It is sad to note that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which the Governors swore to uphold at their inauguration as Governors of their states is the same Constitution they are deprecating by refusing to allow the judiciary enjoy its financial autonomy.
On the issue of financial autonomy of the judiciary, let it be known to the political actors of the Nigerian State that CLASFON’s position is that the financial autonomy of the Nigerian Judiciary is absolutely NOT-NEGOTIABLE. This is so because the financial autonomy of the judiciary will do the following for the country:
- Greatly promote the rule of law in Nigeria,
- Greatly preserve and promote Nigeria’s democracy,
- Greatly ensure the needed independence of the judiciary to function,
- Greatly ensure the proper funding of the judiciary,
- Greatly guarantee the independence of the judicial officers to dispense justice without fear or favour, affection or ill-will,
- Greatly ensure the smooth running of the administration of justice in Nigeria e.t.c
To allay the needless fears of the unyielding Governors of the Nigerian States, CLASFON hereby stresses that the gains of financial autonomy of the judiciary is not limited to the ordinary citizens of Nigeria but also to those political actors who have refused to obey the dictates of the Nigerian Constitution on the financial autonomy of the judiciary. They are reminded that the financial autonomy of the judiciaries in their various states will ensure peace and prosperity in their various States especially in this unsavoury era of insecurity and economic instability that has befallen our dear country.
CLASFON wishes to draw the attention of the Federal and State Governments to the fact that allowing the industrial action of JUSUN to linger without quickly giving in to the simple demand of the striking workers portends grave danger to all and sundry as the continued industrial action does more harm than good. Such harm includes but not limited to the following, it:
- Threatens the stability of democracy and rule of law in Nigeria,
- Threatens nationwide security of lives and properties as citizens have nowhere to vent their grievances thus encouraging citizens to take the laws into their hands,
- Threatens the much needed economic activities and viabilities of the federating states in Nigeria,
- Discourages foreign investors from investing in Nigeria as their investments are not protected from the vagaries and preferences of politicians,
- Encourages the bastardization of fundamental human rights of people under custody of various law enforcement agencies,
- Encourages the bastardization of fundamental human rights of large number of persons awaiting trial in various correctional facilities,
- Undermines the security architecture and mechanism of justice in Nigeria as facilities housing suspects under criminal investigation are currently overcrowded thus making room for jail breaks,
- The crowdedness of the custodial facilities (in this COVID-19 pandemic era) by people awaiting trial portends grave danger to the health of all citizens in the country.
CLASFON further observes with sadness and worry that the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) till date is yet to meet with JUSUN over its industrial action.
The Nigerian Governors Forum have continued to exhibit signs of scant regards to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which itself made provisions for their very existence as Governors of their various States.
It is CLASFON’s position that the Executive arm of governments (at the Federal and State levels) should immediately comply with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution on the financial autonomy of the judiciary and in doing so, spare the country of further untold uncertainty, instability and unnecessary hardships to which the non-compliance have exposed our dear country.” The Statement said.