Lawyer drags RMAFC, 36 state governors to court over financial autonomy for judiciary

Lawyer drags RMAFC, 36 state governors to court over financial autonomy for judiciary

An Abuja-based lawyer, Mr Emeka Okoye has dragged the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and 36 state governors to court over failure to implement financial autonomy for the judiciary.

 

In his originating summons dated June 18, Okoye sued the 36 states through their attorneys-general.

 

In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/502/2021, the plaintiff, through his counsel, Mr Oba Maduabuchi (SAN), is seeking an order of the Federal High Court, directing the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) — the Second Defendant — to henceforth pay directly, all monies meant for the judiciary to the National Judicial Council (NJC).

 

Okoye also prayed the court for an order directing the state Accountants-General 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 is also asking 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 which the governor presents to the state House of Assembly.

 

“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 funds 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.

 

“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 10 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 how they are to be paid directly to the various heads of courts of the various states.

 

“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.

 

“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.”

 

Okoye held that the NJC was the only body authorised by the constitution to receive and distribute funds, which were due to the judiciary, either in the state’s or federal courts, for their capital and recurrent expenditures.

 

No date has, however, been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

 

It would be recalled that the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) recently embarked on a nationwide strike over the issue of financial autonomy for the judiciary, which led to the closure of all court for over two months.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari had, on May 23, 2020, signed an Executive Order, granting 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 all monies due to state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocation to each state, for those states that refuse to grant such autonomy.

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