…Says governors committed to judicial autonomy
By Myke Uzendu, Abuja
Governors of the thirty-six states of the federation, under the aegis of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) have stated that the responsibility of funding both the capital and recurrent expenditures of courts and the judicial arm of government lies squarely on the shoulders of the federal government.
The governors also reiterated their commitment and support to the autonomy of the judiciary and the legislature in the country.
The Vice-Chairman of the forum, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal who is also the Governor of Sokoto State, made the declaration yesterday at a special Attorney-General’s colloquium in honour of Justice Ayodeji Simon Daramola, the Chief Judge of Ekiti State.
Hon. Tambuwal pointed out that while pushing for the autonomy of the judiciary, the federal government has abandoned its duty of funding capital projects in the courts. He said that they only release money for salaries and overhead while the state governments carry the illegal burden of executing capital projects of the courts in their respective states.
Tambuwal emphasized that the 1999 Constitution gave the responsibility of funding both the recurrent and capital expenditures of the entire Judiciary on the Federal, not State governments.
“Let us not forget that the Federal government by Section 81(3) is responsible for all the capital and recurrent expenditure of all courts provided by the Constitution in Section 6 but has left the State government to continually fund capital expenditures of the Courts. From the combined reading of the provisions of S. 81(3) (c) and Item 21 (e) of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, the NGF has made the point that it is the responsibility of the Federal Government of Nigeria to fund all the capital and recurrent expenditures of all Courts of Records as provided by S. 6(5)(a) – (i) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended). What happens in practice is that the Federal Government pays the recurrent expenditure including the salaries of Judges and Khadis and leave States to take care of the capital” he said.
The former Speaker of the House of Representatives said that the Executive Order 10, 2020 which was signed by the President was unnecessary as it was already engraved in the constitution and being implemented.
“The Presidential Executive Order No 10 of 2020 is a unique piece of regulation which we believe deserves highest scrutiny if we must uphold the federal principle which forms a fundamental feature of our Constitution.
“This is the basis for our engagements with relevant stakeholders at various levels as well as our participation in the Technical Committee, which was constituted to explore how to implement financial autonomy granted by the Constitution.
“As Governors, we will be failing in our responsibility if we refuse to draw the attention of the President, stakeholders and the country to grave concerns about the constitutionality of Executive Order #10 of 2020. That was the basis of the position that we took on the Executive Order #10.
“The Executive Order #10 ostensibly intended to support the implementation of judicial financial autonomy, was completely unnecessary and ill advised.
“Let me at this juncture state clearly that we never questioned the right of Mr. President to issue Executive Orders. We only stated that S.121(3) did not require Presidential Executive Fiat to become implementable. Provisions of the Constitution are self-executing and S.121(3) is not an exception.
“Any Governor who refuses or neglects to enforce these provisions would be in clear violation of his Oath of Office. S121(3) requires only administrative measures to be implemented”, he stated further.
Tambuwal reiterated the support of his colleagues to judicial autonomy. He noted that the have all benefitted from the independence and professionalism of the judiciary, be it at the level of administering their Oath of Office or their electoral victory being upheld at the Tribunal or in Court in the interest of democracy, justice, and fairness.
According to the Vice Chairman of the NGF, “As Governors of the 36 States under the platform of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), let me state very clearly that we are unequivocally committed to the autonomy of the judiciary and the legislature.
“In the journey to our current position as Chief Executives of our various States, we have all benefitted from the independence and professionalism of the judiciary, be it at the level of administering our Oath of Office or our electoral victory being upheld at the Tribunal or in Court in the interest of democracy, justice, and fairness.
“The concept of judicial autonomy has its foundations in the time tested doctrine of Separation of Powers.
“The main object is to avoid autocratic government by eliminating the over concentration of powers in one person, agency or institution.
“It’s critical democratic elements is the principle of checks and balances between and among the three arms of government.
Tambuwal explained that the recent misunderstanding on the financial autonomy of the Judiciary is predicated on the need to establish an implementation framework to the 4th Alteration of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Section 121(3). His words, “What we have questioned, and we have made this known at every opportunity, is the process of implementing this provision of the Constitution.”As Chief Executives of our respective States, we feel compelled by our Solemn Undertaking Under Oath to protect and preserve the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended)” he said.