By Francis Sardauna
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, has called on state governors to respect the constitutional provision of the independence of the judiciary by ensuring its financial autonomy.
He said the only way government can reposition the country’s judicial system is to ensure its full autonomy, adding that anything short of that would be an abuse of the rule of law which is undemocratic.
Speaking at the commissioning of Justice Umar Abdullahi Judiciary Health Centre in Katsina Thursday, Muhammad said the three tiers of government are partners for ensuring good governance, but the judiciary is hampered to perform ultimately because of financial dependence on the executive arm.
Muhammad, represented by the Supreme Court Judge, Justice Uwani Musa Abba-Aji, said Nigeria remained the only country with the highest number of litigations per judge and judges work long hours manually thereby imposing dangers on their health, welfare and lifestyles, hence the call for judicial autonomy.
He said: “The branches of government as provided for under the constitution are partners for ensuring good governance and sustenance of democracy. Unfortunately, the judicial arm is in most cases hampered to perform ultimately as a result of financial dependence on the executive branch.
“I will continue to reiterate my calls to state governors to respect the independence of the judiciary by ensuring the financial autonomy of the court. Anything short of this will only amount to abuse of rule of law which is undemocratic.”
He, however, lauded the Katsina State government for building the healthcare centre for judiciary officers and staff, describing it as the first ever health facility in the history of the judiciary in Nigeria.
He therefore urged judges in the state to reciprocate the gesture by becoming more productive, saying the era of non-performance in the judiciary is over as disengagement awaits any judge found wanting.
In his remarks, Governor Aminu Bello Masari said the state government has been respecting the independence of the judiciary by giving judges in the state all the needed work apparatus enhancing their welfare, training and retraining of judicial staff.
He said: “Katsina State respects the independence of the judiciary. Therefore, medical allowances, annual court vacation allowance, robes and dress allowances of judges are being promptly settled.”
Earlier, the state Chief Judge, Justice Musa Danladi Abubakar, said the healthcare centre would provide primary healthcare for judges, kadis, their families and supporting staff of the judiciary to enhance their performance.
He affirmed that all judicial staff have been enrolled in the National Health Insurance scheme through the state health insurance agency.