Editorial: JUSUN’s threat over judicial financial autonomy

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The refusal and failure of some states across the country to pass the law granting financial autonomy to state judiciary may lead to another long industrial action that may cripple judicial process in the country. Workers in the judiciary under the umbrella of Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) threaten to embark on another round of indefinite strike if their demand is not met by the states.

The threat to embark on this industrial action came just a year after the union did the same over the same issue. The action of the judicial worker was bolstered by the judgement of Justice Adeniyi Ademola, then of the Federal High Court on January 14, 2014 that abolished the piece—meal funding of the state and federal courts by the executive. The court ruled that funds meant for the judiciary should instead be disbursed directly to the heads of court and not to the executive arm of government.

In 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Executive Order 10 to give force to the provision of section 121(3) of the Constitution which guarantees the financial autonomy of the state legislature and state judiciary.

At the federal level, the legislature and judiciary, have to a large extent, been enjoying financial autonomy status as they receive their appropriated funds in bulk unlike their counterparts at the state levels who always get what the governors feels like releasing to them.

The Executive Order authorises the Accountant-General of the Federation to make deduction from the Federation Account the money allocated to any state of the federation “that fails to release allocation meant for the state legislature and state judiciary in line with the financial autonomy guaranteed by Section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended)”.

Findings by IMPACT NEWS revealed that as at September 2021, only 12 states which include Plateau, Sokoto, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Enugu, Lagos, Imo, Jigawa, Kwara, Taraba, Nassarawa and Kaduna are the only states in the country that have passed the legislation.

The threat of an industrial action is coming as the country prepares for the general elections in 2023 and litigations relating to the conduct of the activities build up to the elections. An official of the workers union, Jimoh Musa, said that the union is ready to embark on the industrial action even as the elections approaches.

He said, “We just concluded our NEC in Kano and we had reports from each state. Only eight states have passed the law and even at that, they have failed to uphold what they signed which is an impeachable offence.

“We suspended the strike due to the influence of the CJN and the NJC. This is nine months after the suspension of that strike and nothing has been done.

“We will disappoint them when they need us and that is before the elections, we will go on strike at a proper time but before we do so, we will do the needed consultations. We will consult with the CJN, NJC and other relevant partners. We will go on strike at a period when they will be frustrated and that is before the elections.

“We at JUSUN have continued to be patient and we did not want to be seen as adamant and that was why we called off the strike. We will however consult with the individuals who waded into the suspended strike, hear from them and go on strike at the perfect time when they will need us.”

The refusal of the other states to pass law that activates financial autonomy for the judiciary is a ploy by the governors to pocket the judiciary and advance its influence over judiciary. This is a threat to democracy and effective judicial administration in the country. The action of these governors is what results in conflicting rulings by state courts across the country.

We commend President Buhari for taking the bold step of enacting Executive Order 10. It is not enough to proclaim an executive order but what is most important is the ability to implement the provision of the order. In line with this, we challenge the President to go further and ensure that as directed by the executive order, the Accountant-General of the Federation must make deduction from the Federation Account the money allocated to any state of the federation that fails to release allocation meant for the state legislature and state judiciary in line with the financial autonomy guaranteed by Section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended).

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