September 25, 2020

36 states sue FG, demand funding of state courts


President Muhammadu Buhari and AGF Abubakar Malami

By Innocent Anaba

The 36 states governors, through their respective Attorneys General and Commissioners for Justice, have dragged the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, before the Supreme Court over the failure of the Federal Government to fund the courts in the country with recurrent expenditure since May 5, 2009.

It will be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari, had in May 2020, signed Executive Order 10, which gave financial autonomy to the legislature and judiciary at the state level. The state governors argued that the Federal Government should also fund state courts if the president must make such order.

The plaintiffs in the suit against the AGF, through their counsel, Mr Augustine Alegeh, SAN, are contending that the respondent refused to fund the court with capital and recurrent expenditure since May 5, 2009, but only paid the judicial workers’ salaries.

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The plaintiffs, who alleged that the Executive Order 10 contains provisions which are inconsistent with some provisions of the 1999 Constitution, want the apex court to declare the order null and void.

In their statement of claim, the plaintiffs are also contending that the respondent refused to fund the High Courts, Sharia Courts of Appeal, Customary Courts of Appeal of the plaintiffs’ state, apart from paying only the salaries of the judicial officers, was contrary to the provisions of the constitution.

The state attorneys general are further contending that the respondent contravened section 6 of the Constitution of Nigeria, which establishes the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Federal High Court, National Industrial Court, High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, High Court of a state, the Sharia Courts of Appeal of a state, the Customary Court of Appeal of Federal Capital Territory and the Customary Court of Appeal of a state.

According to them, section 81(3) of the 1999 Constitution makes provision for the funding of the courts.

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“That item 21(e) of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution provides that the National Judicial Council (NJC) is to collect from the defendant and disburse all capital and recurrent expenditure in respect of all the courts established under section 6 of the same constitution.

“That section 12(3) of the constitution makes provision for all capital and recurrent expenditures for court not established under section 6 of the constitution by the respective plaintiff’s states,” they stated.

They are asking the Supreme Court to compel the AGF to henceforth, fund both capital and recurrent expenditures of the courts.