Govs Must Respect Constitution on Judicial Autonomy, NBA Insists

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By Victor Ogunje

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has insisted that the 36 state governors in Nigeria must respect what the 1999 Constitution stipulates on the contending issue of full autonomy for the judiciary.

The legal body regretted that the closure of courts across the country has not only debased the country’s democracy, but has adversely affected the fortunes of the legal practitioners, urging the governors to swiftly accede to the request of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) to resolve the conundrum.

The NBA also urged the federal government to convene a roundtable, where all stakeholders can meet, ruminate and proffer solutions to the senseless killings and kidnapping of innocent Nigerians across that country.

The association in Ado Ekiti branch stated these at a press conference heralding the 10th Annual Law Week being held in honour of a legal Icon, Chief Afe Babalola(SAN), in Ado-Ekiti.

The branch Chairman, Adeyemi Adewumi, who gave the theme of this year’s law week as: ‘The 21st Century Lawyer: Integrating Business Skills with Legal Knowledge’, said: “The courts are shut due to the strike by JUSUN members, who are agitating for the implementation of financial autonomy by the executive arm of government for the judiciary arm.

“And to attain a true separation of power, the other arms of government-judiciary and legislature-must be weaned from the breast of the executive, to become independent in all wise, particularly financially. This is the only way public perception can become re-engineered towards trust for the judiciary and the legislature.

“Sections 81 (1) and 123 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, guarantee financial autonomy to the Judiciary. Meanwhile, following the refusal of the government to implement the autonomy, JUSUN and Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) had sued the government in two different cases at the Federal High Court, where both cases were won.

“Pursuant to the judgment, the federal government had eventually complied when the president issued the Executive Order 10 which authorised the Accountant General of the Federation to deduct the fund standing with the credit of the judiciary in the consolidated revenue of each state.

“This was challenged by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). It is a pity that the government had allowed this issue to degenerate to the level where courts and legislative houses have to be shut before the right thing would be done.

“Thus, the NBA is in solidarity with the demands of JUSUN on financial autonomy for the judiciary notwithstanding the temporary pains this industrial action may cause to lawyers’ welfare and work. We have resolved to stand by them because we believe in this cause for the good of all. We, therefore call on the government of Ekiti State and all other state governments to attend to this matter with the urgency it deserves.”

Adewumi also said Nigerians and other recognised groups in the country should be bold enough to demand justice for those whose lives were being wasted like they did during the #EndSARS protest.

Speaking on the Annual Law Week, Adewumi disclosed that the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, would chair the epoch-making event.