Nehemiah Temerity Ayogoi, Esq.
(PRO NBA Sagbama)
Governor Nyesom Wike has pushed the trigger firing to the wrong direction.
I got more saddened when I watched the video and read comments credited to His Excellency Nyesome Wike with regards to the current push for the implementation of the autonomy of the Judiciary which will mainly foster total independence of Judiciary.
Governor Wike had threatened to stop the “supposed implementation of Judicial Autonomy” in River State should NBA continue to support JUSUN in solidarity for complete autonomy of the Judiciary. This is so because the Nigerian Governor’s Forum, NGF, and particularly Governor Wike thinks he is doing the Judiciary any favour.
The Judiciary is an independent arm of government like the Executive which by virtue of section 121 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) empowers it to draw its funding from the Consolidated Revenue and not to go cap – in hand begging for funds due it. The aforementioned section provides and I quote verbatim :
“121. (1) The Governor shall cause to be prepared and laid before the House of Assembly at any time before the commencement of each financial year estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the State for the next following financial year.
(2) The heads of expenditure contained in the estimates, other than expenditure charged upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State by this Constitution, shall be included in a bill, to be known as an Appropriation Bill, providing for the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State of the sums necessary to meet that expenditure and the appropriation of those sums for the purposes specified therein.
(3) Any amount standing to the credit of the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State shall be paid directly to the heads of the courts concerned.
(4) If in respect of any financial year, it is found that –
(a) the amount appropriated by the Appropriation Law for any purpose is insufficient; or
(b) a need has arisen for expenditure for a purpose for which no amount has been appropriated by the Law,
a supplementary estimate showing the sums required shall be laid before the House of Assembly and the heads of any such expenditure shall be included in a Supplementary Appropriation Bill”.
Heads of Courts are expected to present and defend their budget for every financial year which will in turn form part of the Appropriation Law for that year and thereafter any amount standing to the credit of the Judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund is to be paid directly to the Heads of the Courts concerned.
What we see today even from lawyers who are now Governors is quite provoking and belittling the status of the Judiciary by acting as if it is doing the Judiciary any favour to announce how official cars and apartments are awarded to Judges and Magistrates.
Is it the duty of the Governor to buy and supply official vehicles to judges if not to make them obsequiously kowtow and feel indebted to do the bidding of the Governor! .
Must the Governors dictate and teach the Judiciary how to expend its funds? Take for instance, as a staff of the Ministry of Justice, would you be happy to allow the AG or PS dictate how you spend your salary by using it to buy you an official car instead of paying directly into your account to allow you total control of it? That’s what the Governors are doing to the Judiciary. Both arms of government are independent of the other and has the function of checks and balances. Why then would the Executive be responsible for the payment of the salaries and allowances of Judicial officers? The Judiciary should be allowed to draw its funds and credited directly to the accounts of the Heads of Courts as provided by the Constitution so as to prevent them from running to the Governors for approval of car grants or official apartments. The Governors are smart enough to hold the Judiciary under their shoulders for the purpose of coercing the Judiciary to do its bidding whenever it comes with a file to the Executive for approval.
Who approves the funds utilized by the Executive! Would the Executive not be loyal and subservient to the Judiciary as it were if they needed approval from the Judiciary to increase the fleet of cars in the Governor’s convoy?
The lack of independence and or autonomy of the Judiciary has at best reduced the Judiciary to a toothless bulldog.
Yesterday while supporting JUSUN in protest to drive home our demands, for some minutes, I starrrrreed into the thin air in bewilderment soliloquizing and asking myself rhetorical questions on the future and efficacy of a judgement of the court. We have degenerated to the extent where court orders are no longer obeyed but can only be enforced by protests. We are gradually retreating to the primitive era. If the Judiciary which is the last hope of the common man can have its judgements disobeyed and viewed as an ordinary piece of worthless paper then our democracy and future is marred.
Apart from the judgement of the Federal High Court mandating the various Accountant Generals of the states to directly credit every sum standing in favour of the Judiciary into the accounts of Heads of Court, the Executive Order 10 signed by the President making similar directives are of no moment to the Governors of the 36 states who think they have been doing favour to the Judiciary by approving certain allowances for Judicial officers.
Bayelsa State which has passed the Judiciary Autonomy Law is said to be in partial implementation of Judicial Autonomy. His Excellency Sen. Douye Diri yesterday the 19th day of April, 2021 while responding to the demands of protesters hinted that Bayelsa State is the one of the states in the Federation that has complied with the order of court. The Governor is quoted to have said save for the dwindling inflow of revenue in the state, what people regard as “partial implementation” is deemed full implementation depending on the financial inflow.
It is worthy of note that until the Capital and Recurrent Expenditure of the Judiciary is directly credited into the accounts of the Heads of Courts to allow the Judiciary pay the salaries of its staff and deserving allowances there cannot be autonomy.
I call on state JUSUN chapters to neglect the proposal by the NGF to implement the said autonomy in May and continue with the strike action since the judgement of courts are now obeyed only at the will of the Executives.
Until the Judiciary can directly present and defend its heads of expenditures in the Appropriation Law and have same credited directly to its account to prevent the Judiciary from running to the Governors cap in hand for approval of every sheet of paper, pen and or stationery required for the dispensation of Justice, the strike should endure.