By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
Legal luminary, Chief Adwgboyega Awomolo (SAN) says Nigeria’s judiciary under President Muhammadu Buhari has lost its independence.
Awomolo said judges in the country were being treated with disdain by the Federal Government.
He spoke over the weekend while reacting to the budget estimate for the judiciary in the 2021 Appropriation Bill before the National Assembly.
Last Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari had presented the 2021 Appropriation Bill of N13 trillion before a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representative, where the sum of N110 billion has been earmarked for the judiciary.
Awomolo described the N110 billion earmarked for the judiciary as “paltry”, particularly when viewed against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic that has amplified the need to expand court facilities for swift justice dispensation, adding, “The allocation to the judiciary is very unrealistic. It is a repetition of what has been happening in the last four or five years. But the National Assembly still has an opportunity of improving on the N110 billion budget estimates for the judiciary in the 2021 Appropriation Bill.”
He noted that Nigeria’s post-COVID-19 judiciary requires massive investment in critical infrastructure in terms of recruitment and remuneration of judges as well as Information Communication Technology (ICT) to fast tract adjudication of cases.
The life bencher lamented that the nation’s judiciary under President Buhari’s watch had not been accorded its rightful place as an independent arm of government, adding, “The judiciary has always been at the short end of the stick. It has not found favour at all under the current dispensation.”
Awomolo further explained, “The truth of the matter is that the judiciary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria post-COVID-19 cannot be regarded as judiciary pre-COVID-19. This is because the new normal has thrown up the imperativeness of the use of information communication technology as a tool to achieving the quick administration of justice, whether criminal or civil.
“The judiciary is under the jackboot; they are consistently diminished, they are consistently denied and the independence of the judiciary has been trampled upon. The principle of separation of powers has been thrown around. I said so at the legal year of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria. The judiciary in Nigeria is in a worse shape now; having regard to the way the Executive and Legislature treat them (judges). Both the Executive and the Legislature are not treating the judiciary as an arm of government that deserves respectability or that deserves some level of confidence,” Awomolo said.