News Analysis

Implementation Of Financial Autonomy For The Judiciary

As part of a democratic setting, the judiciary in the realm of conflict resolution plays a significant role in ensuring that individual rights which are enshrined in the constitution are well protected and the rule of law is religiously adhered to

As the 3rd arm of government judiciary has an indispensable role as the unbiased interpreter of the law

The roles of judges are tied to a set of characteristics and values that are essential for judicial function

These attributes are not limited to judges alone, it is also applicable to their supporting staffs, who assist them in the dispensation of justice 

In any democratic settings, the principle of separation of power where the allocation of government authority to separate institution in government limits arbitrary excesses by any arm of government

The primary goal of separation of powers is to enable the three arms of government to be functionally independent of each other.

In the appointment of judges at the federal and state level, the executive arm of government is saddled with this function based on the recommendations of the National Judicial Council, NJC, subject to the confirmation of the senate and House of Representatives.

This has made the executive to have so much power and influence on the judiciary as the judiciary looks up to the executive for financial obligations.

According to a maxim, he who plays the piper dictates the tune hence the need for the judiciary to be financially independent.

Unfortunately over the years, state judiciaries have relied on the executive for their funding.

Section 120 subjection 3 of the 1999 constitution {as amended} acknowledges the importance of financial autonomy for each arm of government

Equally section 121 subsection3 of the constitution states that any amount standing to the credit of state house of assembly and the judiciary in the consolidated revenue fund of the states shall be paid directly to the heads of the courts

 In spites of these constitution provisions, state judiciary in the country   have continued to be financially dependent on the executive making them to be at the whims and caprices of the executive

Regrettably, lack of financial autonomy on state judiciaries has made it difficult for judges at state high courts to be independent and impartial, especially in cases where the executive has a vested interest

It came as a succour when president Muhammahu Buhari on the 22nd of May, 2020 signed into law , the executive order no.1 of 2020 for the implementation of financial  autonomy for state legislature and state judiciary

The implication of this is that the judicial arm of government across the 36 states in Nigeria will now receive their financial allocations from the consolidated revenue fund without recourse to the executive.

With this executive order, order 10, it is with dismay that the implementation of this law has become a mirage, which propelled the judiciary staff of Nigeria, JUSUN, to commence an indefinite nationwide strike on the 6th of April calling for the implementation of the executive order 10 by the state government.

Corroborating the struggle of JUSUN, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammed said the decision by court workers nationwide to press for financial autonomy for the judiciary was justified.

On the 20th of April a meeting was scheduled to hold between the minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige and representatives of JUSUN where the representatives of the union walked out.

Landing their voice of support for financial autonomy, the Nigerian bar association also staged a peaceful protest in all states of the federation to back the implementation of financial autonomy for state judiciary.

For JUSUN, no retreat, no surrender as the industrial action is a weapon of negotiation to press home their demand

However, the effect of the strike is taking its toll on suspects who ordinarily should not spend more than 48 hours in custody

The strike has prevented the police and other law enforcement agencies from arranging suspects in courts which has overcrowded the cells.

All judicial activities have been paralyzed, even as legal practitioners whose source of livelihood has been tampered with are lamenting bitterly

The ball is now in the court of state governments’.

The Nigeria governors forum should make it a matter of urgency to deliberate and implement the financial autonomy of the judiciary as signed into law

Furthermore, when financial autonomy is eventually, implemented heads of courts should not be the accounting officer to prevent corruption and financial recklessness.

Upon acceding to the demands of JUSUN, the state government should inaugurate a judiciary fund management board that will be saddled with the responsibility of ensuring accountability with funds.   

Adeyoyin Shomoye

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