Legal Nigeria

Wike opposes FG’s directive on financial autonomy for judiciary

By Ann Godwin

Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike

Governor Nyesom Wike has said Rivers would not enact a bill for financial autonomy of the judiciary, arguing that nobody could dictate to him how to run the state.

He stated that it would be futile to bother the House of Assembly with such a bill since the 1999 Constitution (as amended) already recognises the independence of the judiciary.

Wike spoke at the dinner in honour of delegates to the 61st Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) at the Government House, Port Harcourt.

He explained that since Nigeria does not practice unitary system of government, it would be wrong for the Federal Government to issue directives to states on how they should run their affairs.

Wike said: “Nobody can force me on how my state will operate. Nobody can say send this bill to the legislature for judiciary autonomy. The Constitution has already guaranteed that the judiciary must be independent and we have agreed on that.

“Amendment had been done that the judiciary must be independent, and on first line charge. If I’m not obeying that, there is a sanction for it.”

The governor said the state government had released all 2021 capital expenditure due to the judiciary since September. He challenged the Federal Government to prove it had done same.

He urged the Federal Government to desist from “playing to the gallery with issue of financial autonomy for the judiciary.”

According to him, a Federal Government with “decrepit High Court buildings across the country cannot truly claim it fully supports financial autonomy for the judiciary.”

“Are they giving the judiciary at the federal level the budget they are supposed to have in order to put the courts in order,” Wike added.

He warned that Rivers would resist any attempt by the Federal Government to deduct funds meant for it under the guise of implementing financial autonomy for the judiciary.

Recall that the Federal Government told the Supreme Court on October 5, 2021 that it cannot continue to fund state courts, as the apex court reserved judgment on a suit the 36 states of the federation filed to nullify President Muhammadu Buhari’s Executive Order 10, which granted financial autonomy to judiciary at the state level.

In the order he signed on May 22, 2020, the President made it mandatory for states to include allocations of both the legislature and the judiciary in their appropriation laws, in compliance with Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

In the suit filed at the Supreme Court on September 17, 2020, the 36 states, through their Attorneys-General, queried the legality of the presidential order.

Countering the directive, Governor Wike said the NBA cannot continue to be docile while security agencies are used by the Federal Government to “intimidate and harass judges.”

“When the judiciary is destroyed, the legal profession is gone,” he stated.