It is often said that for the foundation of an organization or nation to be sustainable, the rule of law and respect for constitutional provisions must be at the forefront of both government and the governed.
This is the practice in the advanced democracy of the world where the interest of the nation is most paramount above any individual or group, regardless of their position or resources in terms of resources.
Under the presidential system of government, clear provisions have been made in the Constitution for three arms of government namely: executive, legislative and judicial, with the arms independent of each other, with a clear separation of powers under the constitution , to avoid any obstacle in the overall management of government affairs.
However, while respect for the rule of law and obedience to the separation of powers letters had been advanced in a country like America, the same cannot be said here in Nigeria where, although it has gained its independence in 1960 and became a full-fledged republic in 1963, its emerging leaders are still struggling to put into practice the very important separation of powers, even clearly written into the constitution without any form of ambiguity.
A clear form of affront to the constitution and the separation of powers is the deliberate denial of financial autonomy to both the judiciary and the state-level legislature in Nigeria where all powers appear to have been limited to governors. States.
This highlights, the ongoing power struggle between state governors on one side and court workers on the other side, leading to the declaration of an indefinite national strike by the latter on April 6 in the aim of enforcing the constitutional provisions as they relate. to the separation of powers and to save the judiciary from the clutches of the all-powerful governors this time around.
For any fan of good governance and democratic government, the position of judicial personnel is justifiable and justiciable, while on the other hand, the position of the States remains condemnable being a flagrant aberration and an outright confrontation with the constitution that the governors have sworn to protect. their individual inaugurations by the chief justices of their respective states.
As of April 6, 2021, when the strike began, workers operating under the aegis of the Nigerian Judicial Staff Union, JUSUN, made their position known.
In a statement made public and signed by its secretary general, IM Adetola, JUSUS said each state should implement its self-accounting law in the treatment of internally generated income.
“Each state should implement its self-accounting law or fund management law with regard to internally generated income (IGR) also known as the state consolidated fund) in accordance with Section 121 (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
“While states that have not yet signed the bill should do so without delay,” JUSUN said
In addition, the union argued that the amount credited to the judiciary of the monthly federal allowance should be deducted directly from source by the Federation’s general accountant and returned to the National Council of the Judiciary CNM for subsequent transmission to chiefs. courts.
JUSUN said, “For the Federation Consolidated Account, also known as the Federal Allocation, the budget of each state judiciary submitted to the Implementation Committee (received October 2, 2020) should be put implemented by deducting the amount owed to the judiciary of the State directly from source by the Accountant General of the Federation in accordance with Article 81 (3), Article 162 (9) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) for States. The general accountant of the Federation should be directed accordingly.
“In other words, the Federation Accountant General should deduct from the monthly federal allowance and remit it to the CNM for subsequent transmission of the fund to the heads of state judicial courts. Articles 81 (3) and 162 (8). “
The Union also argued that the implementation requested above should include the payment of arrears from October 2020.
It should be clear here that the workers are demanding the financial autonomy of the country’s judicial system in accordance with the Nigerian Constitution and a judgment of a Federal High Court in Abuja which upheld the relevant constitutional provisions in a judgment of January 2014.
Due to the inflexible posture of the governors, most of whom are lawyers, the country’s supreme court, the supreme court, the federal court of appeal, the federal high court, the national labor court and the state high court and of the Federal Capital Territory, among others, have since been locked up with the ensuing consequences.
Part of the consequences is that litigants who see justice as the last hope, cannot access the courts at the moment, thousands of jurists who have no other means of subsistence cannot exercise their noble profession and worse still, several suspects awaiting trial must remain in detention. until God knows when.
It will therefore not be out of place for eminent Nigerians, in particular lovers of democracy, to convince inflexible governors to see reason with the magistrates and, in fact, Nigeria to change the field and accede to the legitimate demands of the workers.
Let the point be made here that it is not the constitutional duty of a governor to oversee funds intended for the state judiciary and the state house of assembly. It is an aberration, a blatant abuse of power and a dangerous affront to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The silence of President Muhammadu Buhari on this issue no longer seems golden. The presidency must take the bubble by the horn by ensuring that the constitutional provisions are respected at all levels of government.
Decree 10 promulgated by the presidency to save the state judiciary and the state assembly chambers must be courageously implemented to serve its useful purpose.
All government agencies that are supposed to perform one function or another with regard to the autonomy of state justice, in particular the office of the general accountant of the Federation, must be given marching orders to do their jobs without fear. nor favor.
For their part, governors must stop pretending that all is well with their states. Holding the nation’s justice system to ransom for total disregard for the constitution and basic laws will do them no good.
Governors should remember that they have a maximum of eight years to come to power, after which they may end up falling victim to the bad precedents imposed on Nigeria now.
Being rigid in the face of a blatant violation of constitutional provisions and the rule of law can make Nigerian history bitter for them.