June 19, 2021

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Judicial financial autonomy FG’s responsibility, lawyer insists

  • Buhari’s 10th Executive Order is unconstitutional, he says

by Alex Enumah

A constitutional lawyer, chief Sebastine Hon (SAN), insisted that the realization of the financial independence of the judiciary rests solely with the federal government.

Hon argued that the ongoing strike by members of the Nigeria Judicial Staff Union (JUSUN), which entered its second month, could have been warned if the constitution had been correctly interpreted by the parties.

In a letter to the President of the Supreme Court of Nigeria (CJN) entitled “The JUSUN Strike Action and The Correct Position of The Constitution on Financial Independence For The Judiciary in Nigeria”, the constitutional lawyer said that all higher courts are the creation of the federation and, as such, the responsibility of the federal government.

Other recipients of the letter sighted by THISDAY on Monday, including the Federation Attorney General (AGF) and the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Labor and Employment, the President of the Nigerian Lawyers Association (NBA) and the National President of JUSUN .

He said: “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, established far-reaching provisions that guarantee, in explicit and unambiguous terms, financial independence for both the higher and lower courts in Nigeria.”

According to him, Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution listed the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Federal High Court, the National Industrial Court, the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the High Court of a state, the Sharia Court of Appeals, FCT, a state Sharia Court of Appeal, the FCT Customary Court of Appeal and a State Customary Court of Appeal as higher courts.

Hon said that whether it is the Federal High Court or a state High Court, they are all creations of the federation and therefore should derive funds from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF).

“Section 318 (1) defines the Federation as the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Clearly, therefore, the authors of the constitution wanted those courts that are mislabeled as state courts to be courts of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – meaning they are federal courts, which are, however, instituted for each state, for geographic and other reasons only. administrative reasons, “he said.

“Since these are also ‘federal’ courts set up to function within federation states, therefore, they should also be part of the spending content of the president’s annual budget estimates submitted to the National Assembly,” he added.

He criticized the issuance of Executive Order 10 by President Muhammadu Buhari, who noted that he prescribed other budgeting methods for states not covered by the constitution.

“The said Executive Decree 10 is also in contrast with the express provisions of articles 6 (1), (3) (5) read together with articles 81 (3) and 84 (1) (4) (7) of the Constitution. It is in fact contrary to section 121 (3) itself as amended since, contrary to the erroneous notion advocated by the President, neither the original text of that subsection nor its amended version have anything to do with the higher courts, even if located in various states and as state courts, “he said.

Hon further argued that in the federal system of government practiced by Nigeria, states are semi-autonomous, “so the president has no power, direct or implied, to impose orders on governors or to attempt, as has been done in the Executive Order 10, to rule the states from Abuja ”.

He then asked the National Judicial Council (NJC) to urgently assume responsibility for the collection, collection and finalization of budget estimates to the higher registry courts from the various heads of the courts for subsequent delivery to the Office of the budget of the Federation to be included in the annual budget of the federation.

The senior attorney also asked the NJC to disburse funds intended for the higher registration courts directly to them once the funds were made available to him.

According to him, “In the current constitutional scheme of things, state governments have only to deal with the budgetary needs of magistrates and other lower courts than higher courts on the state judicial scale.

“Presidential Order 10 signed by Buhari on May 20, 2020 is unconstitutional, null and void, as it conflicts with the express provisions of the 1999 Constitution”.