An Abuja Federal High Court on Monday declared as unconstitutional, null and void, the control and disbursement of funds meant for the judiciary by the executive arm of government.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed ordered that money belonging to the judiciary in the consolidated revenue of the federation must be fully paid directly to the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Mohammed was delivering judgment in the case brought against the executive by Mr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Agbakoba, a constitutional lawyer, had sued the Federal Government over the practice of passing judiciary funds through the executive.
Agbakoba had argued that the practice was in breach of Sections 81 (2) (3) (c) and 84 (2) (7) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, the National Judicial Council and the National Assembly were joined in the suit as co-defendants. In the judgment, Mohammed said, “the NJC shall prepare the judiciary’s budget as charged upon the Consolidated Revenue and submit it to the Accountant-General of the Federation to transfer to NJC.
“A consequential order restraining the 1st defendant (FG) and 3rd defendant (National Assembly) from appropriating the funds for the judiciary in the Annual Appropriation Act, is hereby granted.
“The present practice of judiciary funding by the defendants, which makes the judiciary dependent on the Executive Arm in budgeting and release of funds, violates Sections 81 (2) (3) (c) and 84 (2) (7) of the Constitution.
“It is, therefore, unconstitutional, null and void’’, he said.
The judge further declared that Section 81 of the constitution guarantees financial autonomy of the judiciary.
The NJC, he said, ought not to send its annual budget to the budget office of the executive arm of government or any other executive authority as was practiced.
He ordered NJC to instead send its budget directly to the National Assembly for appropriation.
Mohammed also declared that the dependence of the judiciary on the executive arm for its budgeting and funding by warrants was directly responsible for the under-funding of the judiciary.
“This is also responsible for the poor and inadequate judicial infrastructure, low morale among judicial personnel, alleged corruption in the judiciary, delays in administration of justice and judicial services’’, he said.