The fate of justice system within the four walls of Nigeria as a nation is crying for mercy. For a period of a year and six months, the wheel of justice is clogged, as uncertainty beclouds the entire justice system of the country, this is further amplified by the unfortunate sequence of events ranging from Corona virus Pandemic, EndSARS protest, Vacations, Holidays and Strike action by Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and Judicial Staff Union (JUSUN) at different periods within same time; all cumulating to compulsory holidays and a stop to the moving rail of the justice sector of the country.
Consequently, Legal Practitioners, Judges and all judicial actors who plays critical role in the legal and justice delivery system have been rendered redundant, while the fate of the Nigerian litigants and persons in dire need of effective justice delivery is hanging in the balance. The overall negative effects of these ugly trends have taken its toll on all citizens within and outside the country.
I have always said, and It is my belief that the two most important considerations witnessed and obviously manifested in any prosperous and/or great nation is good Leadership and effective Justice system; as every other heals and ills of any society rest on these two mighty pillars; resultantly, if the right persons are within the frame and structure of leadership and justice delivery of any nation, naturally there will be justice, security and peace in the land and same would bring about a prosperity and development.
It is of common knowledge that the Judicial Staff Union of Nigerian Judiciary has embarked on an indefinite strike from the first week of April, 2021 till date; all for reasons of seeking to effect compliance of Governors within the Thirty-Six States of the Federation with the necessary provisions of the Nigerian constitution, precedents and other laws; Judicial Financial Autonomy.
The question that keep begging for answer remains, How difficult could it be for our selfish and ‘care-less’ leaders to effect the content of a written law, particularly that of the constitution they duly swore to uphold and enforce? In a country like Nigeria, Oath of Office and/or allegiance to the constitution has manifestly become a joke; yet, no consequence for any malfeasance or deliberate misgivings made by our so called lawless leaders of law and order.
It is a notorious fact that majority of Governors and leaders in Nigeria never believes in legacy, they would promise heaven and earth, and as soon as they mount the podium of leadership, they soon forget that power is transient; impunity becomes the order of the day, they know nothing about leaving legacies. This same attitude had wrecked the country for too long? For how long would we continue in this perfidious trend and expect a great nation?
It is very unfortunate and embarrassing that we have Governor-Lawyers who know the right thing as clearly stated by our constitution and other laws, but failed to comply with such provision of judicial autonomy for selfish reasons. I suppose if all Governors fails, no Governor-Lawyer heading the important arm of the Executive should ordinarily fail by their callings. Methinks, it amounts to grave misconduct and flagrant breach of Oath of office. It simply amounts to grave illegalities.
A lot of lawyers are in leadership positions across the country as Governors, Deputy Governors, Ministers of the Federation, Commissioners; particularly, Attorney Generals; many of whom by their conducts, actions and inactions failed to do, encourage and/or lead by example by simply following the provisions of law; hence encouraged lawlessness and impunity within the system.
Section 81(3), 121(3) of the constitution of Nigeria is clear and unambiguous; its simply provides:
- (1) The President shall cause to be prepared and laid before each House of the National Assembly at any time in each financial year estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the Federation for the next following financial year.
(2) The heads of expenditure contained in the estimates (other than expenditure charged upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation by this Constitution) shall be included in a bill, to be known as an Appropriation Bill, providing for the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the sums necessary to meet that expenditure and the appropriation of those sums for the purposes specified therein.
(3) The amount standing to the credit of the-
(a) Independent National Electoral Commission,
(b) National Assembly, and
(c) Judiciary, in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation shall be paid directly to the said bodies respectively; in the case of the Judiciary, such amount shall be paid to the National Judicial Council for disbursement to the heads of the courts established for the Federation and the States under section 6 of this Constitution.
- (1) The Governor shall cause to be prepared and laid before the House of Assembly at any time before the commencement of each financial year estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the State for the next following financial year.
(2) The heads of expenditure contained in the estimates, other than expenditure charged upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State by this Constitution, shall be included in a bill, to be known as an Appropriation Bill, providing for the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State of the sums necessary to meet that expenditure and the appropriation of those sums for the purposes specified therein.
(3) 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.
Section 81(3) and section 121(3) of the provisions of the constitution above are clear and instructive enough.
Several judicial precedents as Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria v. Governors of the 36 States of Nigeria (2013), Suit No; FHC/ABJ/CS/667/13; Olisa Agbakoba v. FG & 2Ors. FHC/ABJ/CS/63/2013 gave judicial imprimatur to the essence of independent and financially free judiciary. By judicial pronouncements, Judicial autonomy is not only compulsory, it is a necessity, the importance of an independent of judiciary of any great nation cannot be over-emphasized.
President Buhari Executive Order 10, 2020 which was made granting financial autonomy to States Judiciary and Legislatures is the way to go in a Federation structure like Nigeria. The Executive Order 10 as signed by Nigerian President is simply in line with the provisions of Nigeria constitution, same gives power to the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct from the allocations due to a state from the Federation Account, any sums appropriated for the legislature or judiciary of that state which the state fails to release to its legislature or judiciary as the case may be, and to pay the funds directly to the state’s legislature or judiciary concerned through the heads of each arms.
The immediate compliance and/or implementation of the above presidential directive would have been one of the turning points in the history of Nigeria governance; It is very unfortunate that when the executive order 10 was due for implementation, same was eventually suspended on intervention of Governors in Nigeria who prevailed on the president to suspend the said executive order without any valid reason; and funny enough, some of the Governors that prevailed on Mr. president are Governor-Lawyers, who ought to lead by example and influence others by setting a pace in allowing the prevalence of Rule of law and order.
The JUSUN Strike is needless, if only the Governors would obey the constitution. The country is bleeding on all fronts; all sectors of economy and national life are on trial. Let the Governors assist in creating a good, virile and stable society where law and order is given foremost importance. The judicial arm should be given utmost priority by total independence. Power is transient, and where there is no justice, there cannot be peace and development.
The strike action appears to be the satisfaction of the so called Governors who have made outright refusal to heed the yearning for justice through JUSUN. The free course of justice has been suspended indefinitely for unwarranted reasons and the lackadaisical postures of the relevant authorities. This is extremely bad for the governors themselves who would look up to the someday, especially when they are o more in power.
It would be wise, humane, law abiding and reputable for governors, most especially the learned ones, to give wings to the crawling bird of the Judiciary by allowing fiscal independence of the Judiciary in the interest of justice, in tandem with the constitution and the will of the people of Nigeria.
It’s a great shame for any Governor, particularly Lawyer-Governors to be fingered in this anomaly. It is simple, in line with your sworn Oath of office, comply with the law and there shall be justice and peace.
Richarmond O. Natha-Alade is a legal Practitioner and Executive Partner, Sun Natha-Alade & Partners (SNATHAP)