The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, summoned the Attorney General of the Federation; the National Judicial Council, NJC, and the National Assembly leadership to appear in court and defend a suit that was filed by a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, seeking to secure financial autonomy for the judiciary.
In his suit, Agbakoba is asking the court to determine whether by section 81(2) and section 84(1), (2), (3), (4) and (7) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the remuneration, salaries, allowances and recurrent expenditures of the judiciary, being constitutionally guaranteed charges (or “First Charge”) on the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the federation, form part of the estimates to be included in the Appropriation Bill as proposed expenditures by the President as is the present practice
He is also asking for a determination whether in-line with the provisions of the aforementioned sections, “the NJC ought to send its annual budget estimates to the Budget Office of the Executive Arm of Government or any other Executive Authority as is the present practice; or send the estimates directly to the National Assembly for appropriation?
Agbakoba contended that besides independent budgeting, the funds belonging to the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund ought to be released to the NJC in full for disbursement for the needs of the courts.
Consequently, he further urged the court to go ahead and decide whether the continued dependence of the judiciary on the Executive Arm for its budgeting and funds release is not directly responsible for the present state of under-funding of the judiciary, poor and inadequate judicial infrastructure and low morale among judicial personnel.