Why lawyers insist on financial autonomy for judiciary
Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, yesterday, corroborated the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, who, he quoted as saying in 2021, that “it would be difficult for the Judiciary to be impartial in a democracy when it is not financially autonomous and independent.”
Ikpeazu spoke through his deputy, Dr. Ude Chukwu, during the formal opening of 2022/2023 legal year in the state, which had the theme, ‘Judiciary: The Challenges Of Non- Implementation Of Financial Autonomy.’
He said that Financial Autonomy (FA) to the judiciary remains a constitutional creation and provision, which must not be toyed with if full import of democracy must be attained.
He noted: “The 1999 Constitution (as amended) provided for financial autonomy for the Judiciary and Legislature in section 121 (3).”
The State Chief Judge, Justice Onuoha Ogwe, who, in his address, stated that many misunderstand what financial autonomy is all about, explained: “This idea is not a superiority contest between the Judiciary and the Executive, but a vehicle of enhancing development across the arms.”
“It is, indeed, about budgetary independence as, each year, budgetary provisions are projected for the three arms of government – Executive, Legislative and Judiciary.
“The Judiciary has three broad areas – personnel costs, overhead and capital. The executive has been funding personnel and overhead to some extent. But capital has suffered zero allocation over the years.
“That is what accounts for the poor state of infrastructure in the Judiciary. The executive has no business building houses or buying vehicles for the Judiciary. These are to be taken care of by capital estimates.
“What autonomy demands is for appropriated funds to be released to the Judiciary like other arms. In pursuance of this and to ensure transparency, the House of Assembly prepared the Judiciary Funds Management Bill, which was forwarded to the governor for his assent last year.”
The state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Uche Ihediwa, in his address, stated that one principal means adopted by the 1999 Constitution in ensuring the independence of each arm of government is to make them financially autonomous and clearly specified sources of revenue and accrual funds to each arm.