• Friday, July 12, 2024
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BusinessDay

Agbakoba challenges Executive Appropriation of Judicial Funds

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Foremost commercial lawyer and former President of the Nigerian bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba, SAN has challenged the appropriation practice of States, whereby the Annual Budget Estimates of the Judiciary is included in the Appropriation Bill which State Governors lay before the States House of Assembly. The Case, SUIT NO: HAD/56/2013 is currently before the Honourable Justice Adeyeye of Ado Ekiti Division of the High Court of Ekiti State.

 Dr. Agbakoba explained that the Ekiti Case is just a starting point of his challenge against the appropriation practice prevalent in the 36 States of the Federation. It will be recalled that Dr Agbakoba approached the Federal High Court Abuja, to challenge the unconstitutional funding of the Judiciary by the Federal Government.

In the Ekiti Case, Dr Agbakoba submitted that the appropriation practice of State Governors makes the Judiciary dependent on the Executive for Budget Estimates and Funding and therefore violates Section 121 of the Constitution. He explained that the basis of the Suit is that the Constitution guarantees independent funding of the Judiciary by excluding expenditure Charged upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State from the Governors’ Appropriation Bill. The Constitution further stipulates that any amount standing to the credit of the Judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State shall be paid directly to the Heads of Court concerned.

Rather than comply with the Constitution, State Governors include the Budget Estimates of the Judiciary in their Appropriation Bills, which are then passed into the Appropriation Laws, by the States Houses of Assembly.  Also, rather than pay directly to Heads of Court, State Governors retain the funds and pay in batches to the Judiciary through Warrants and cheques, thereby emasculating the Judiciary and undermining its independence.

The action seeks four Orders: (1) A declaration that the present practice of funding the judiciary is unconstitutional. (2) A declaration that any amount standing to the credit of the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State ought not to be released to the Judiciary in warrants by the Executive Arm, as is the present practice, but to be paid directly in whole to the Heads of Court for disbursement. (3) A declaration that the continued Dependence of the Judiciary on the Executive Arm for its Budgeting and Funds Release is directly responsible for the present state of under-funding of the Judiciary, poor and inadequate judicial infrastructure, low morale among judicial personnel- alleged corruption in the Judiciary, delays in administration of justice and judicial services delivery and general low quality and poor out-put by the Judiciary. (4) A Perpetual Injunction, restraining the Defendants from all practices on Judiciary funding which is contrary to Section 121 (3) CFRN 1999, to wit submitting Judiciary’s estimates to the Executive and release of the Judiciary’s fund in warrants by the Executive instead of directly to the Heads of Courts.

The Originating Summons is supported by an Affidavit of 16 paragraphs deposed by Dr. Agbakoba and also a written address containing the arguments.

The suit came up on March 12, 2014 and has been adjourned to April 7, 2014 for hearing.