4 August 2014

Nigeria: Give Judiciary Its Money


HE speed of justice is something we use to illustrate the essence of ensuring that justice is done, and in a fashion, that does not vitiate the essence of justice. We are a people of many words. Anyone who knows official postulations about justice would be shocked about minimal efforts the authorities make to facilitate justice.

Judicial workers were on nation-wide strike because money due to state judiciaries was not released. The strike put access to justice on hold. Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Jonah Otunla, on July 17, 2014, asked States to comply with the judgment that vindicated the stand of judiciary workers.

The Federal Government had complied with the judgment by Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, asking governments at all levels to release allocations to the Judiciary at the federal and state levels. Should that be the case when budgets, once passed become law? In some instances, the withheld funds are matters of constitutional decisions.

Section 121 (3) of the Constitution states, "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". The provision is clear, express and unequivocal. It depicts the withholding of funds to the Judiciary as unconstitutional. The Executive's refusal to release the funds led to the court action.

It is unfortunate that the Judiciary is treated as the inferior partner among the three arms of government. It should not be the case. The Constitution grants the Judiciary independence for it to play its role as arbiter and interpreter of the Constitution and other legal matters without impediments.

The continued withholding of the finances of the Judiciary by the Executive with tacit cooperation of the Legislature, in the States, is an affront to our Constitution. It makes the Judiciary susceptible to manipulations. The Judiciary cannot operate with the independence the Constitution envisages when its finances are in the control of governors who run States like their private estates.

Governors like to continue in the military tradition that tied the Judiciary to the apron strings of the Executive. They address themselves as executive governors and take credit for any achievements of the Judiciary. The continued breach of the law is not only unacceptable; it is also mainly responsible for the frequent disruptions of work by the judicial workers union to compel compliance.

We call on the Legislature to join the Judiciary in ensuring executive compliance with the court judgment. Unless all arms of government are independent, the balances on which democracy thrives would collapse. The Judiciary in the hands of self-serving governors is additional danger to these days.


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