AS a people of many words, we appreciate the essence of justice. The speed of justice is something we use to illustrate the essence of ensuring that justice is done, and in a fashion, that does not vitiate
the essence of justice. Anyone who knows these philosophical postulations about justice would be shocked about minor efforts governments make to facilitate justice.
Judicial workers go on nation-wide strike because money due to state judiciaries is not released. The strike put access to justice on hold.
The Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Jonah Otunla, in a 17 July 2014, asked States to comply with a court judgment that vindicated the stand of judiciary workers.
The Federal Government had complied with the judgment by Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, asking governments at all levels to release allocations to the Judiciary at the federal and state levels. Should that be the case when budgets, once passed become law?
Section 121 (3) of the 1999 Constitution states, “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 the courts concerned”.
The provision is clear, express and unequivocal. It depicts the withholding of funds to the Judiciary as unconstitutional. The Executive’s refusal to release the funds led to the court action.
It is unfortunate that the Judiciary is treated as the inferior partner among the three arms of government. It should not be the case.
The Constitution grants the Judiciary independence for it to play its role as arbiter and interpreter of the Constitution and other legal matters without impediments.
The continued withholding of the finances of the Judiciary by the Executive with tacit cooperation of the Legislature, in the States, is an affront to our Constitution. It makes the Judiciary susceptible to
manipulations. The Judiciary cannot operate with the independence the Constitution envisages when its finances are in the control of governors who run States like their private estates.
Governors like to continue in the military tradition that tied the Judiciary to the apron strings of the Executive. They address themselves as executive governors and take credit for achievements of
the Judiciary. The continued breach of the law is not only unacceptable; it is also majorly responsible for the frequent disruptions of work by the judicial workers union in their bid to compel compliance.
We call on the Legislature to join the Judiciary in ensuring executive compliance with the court judgment. Unless all arms of government are independent, the tripod on which democracy thrives would collapse. The
Judiciary in the hands of self-serving governors is additional danger these days.