BY BARTHOLOMEW MADUKWE
An Ekiti State High Court sitting in Ado-Ekiti has declared as unconstitutional, the practice, where the annual budget estimates of the judiciary are included in the Appropriation Bills, which state governors lay before state Houses of Assembly.
Trial judge, Justice J. Adeyeye, made the pronouncement in his judgment in the suit by Dr. Olisa Agbakoba against the Attorney General of Ekiti State, Ekiti Judicial Service Committee.
The practice is for governors to include judicial estimates in their Appropriation Bills, which are then passed into the Appropriation Law, by the states Houses of Assembly, contrary to Section 121 of the Constitution, which guarantees independent funding of the Judiciary.
Agbakoba in the suit, had asked the court to declare that the present practice of funding the judiciary is unconstitutional.
He also asked the court to declare 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.
He had also prayed the court to declare that the continued dependence of the Judiciary on the executive 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.
* 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 court granted all the orders.
It will be recalled that Justice A. Mohammed of the Federal High Court Abuja, on May 26, 2014 delivered a landmark judgment in a similar case filed by Dr Agbakoba and held that estimates of the federal judiciary should not be submitted to the executive for inclusion in the Appropriation Bill.
The court ruled that judicial estimates should be submitted by the National Judicial Council direct to the National Assembly for consideration and appropriation.