An Abuja based legal practitioner, Emeka Okoye, has dragged the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission and the 36 State Governors to court over failure to implement financial autonomy for judiciary.
In his originating summons dated June 18, 2021, Okoye sued the 36 states through their attorneys-general.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/502/2021, the plaintiff, through his counsel, Oba Maduabuchi (SAN), is seeking an order of the Federal High Court directing FAAC (2nd defendant) to henceforth pay directly all monies standing to the credit of the judiciary to the National Judicial Council.
Okoye also prayed the court for an order directing the accountant-general of each state to pay directly to each head of court in the state, all such funds standing to the credit of the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state.
The plaintiff further asked the court to determine whether by the provisions of Sections 121 (1), (2) and (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), it is proper for a state governor to include the budgetary expenditure of the judiciary in the state, which is charged upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state in the budgetary estimates the governor presents to the state House of Assembly.
The lawyer said: “Whether by the provisions of Section 121 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), it is proper to pay funds standing to the credit of the judiciary in the state to any other person or authority outside the heads of court in the various states as directed by Section 121(3) of the 1999 constitution.
“Whether by the community reading of Sections 81(3), 121(3) and 162(9) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), FAAC is right in paying the fund standing to the credit of the judiciary to various state governors and not the NJC as directed by the above sections of the constitution.”
Okoye, in a 19-paragraph affidavit in support of the suit, deposed to the fact that the 1999 Constitution was the grand norm upon which all laws and actions of governments and agencies derived their powers and authority.
He said: “That Nigeria upon independence, adopted a federal system of government with three tiers of government Federal, State and Local Governments and three arms of government: Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.”
Okoye further deposed to the fact that the 1999 Constitution created ten courts both for the federation and the 36 states.
He maintained that the same constitution made various provisions for the disbursements of funds due to the judiciary from the federation account to be paid directly to the NJC and not any other person or authority.
According to him, the constitution equally makes provisions for how funds standing to the credit of the judiciary from the consolidated funds in the states are to be disbursed and they are to be paid directly to the various heads of courts of the various states.
He said: “The defendants hitherto paid the monies due to the judiciary to the governors of the 36 states instead of the NJC and heads of court in the states.
“That the direct payment of the funds due to the judiciary to the governors of the 36 states is against the spirit and letters of the 1999 Constitution.”
He held that the NJC was the only body authorised by the constitution to receive and distribute funds due to the judiciary either in states or the federal courts for their capital and recurrent expenditures.
No date has, however, been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
The News Agency of Nigeria recalls that the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria went on a nationwide strike leading to the closure of all court for over two months over financial autonomy for the Judiciary.
NAN reports that on May 23, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law an Executive Order to grant financial autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary across the 36 states of the country.
The order also mandates the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct from source amount due to state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocation to each state for states that refuse to grant such autonomy.