By Egufe Yafugborhi, PORT HARCOURT
GOVERNOR Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has cautioned the Federal Government to stop playing to the gallery with the issue of financial autonomy for the judiciary.
He said the expectation on state Houses of Assembly to enact a law backing financial autonomy for the judiciary was pointless as the Nigerian Constitution already guarantees the independence of the judiciary.
Wike said these when he hosted delegates of the ongoing 61st Annual Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in Port Harcourt, to a dinner at the Rivers State Government House, Monday night.
He said the state under him would not consider any bill for financial autonomy for the judiciary.
He said, “Nobody can force me on how my state will operate. Nobody can say send this bill to the legislature for judiciary autonomy.
“The constitution has already guaranteed that the judiciary must be independent and we have agreed on that.
“Amendment had been done that the judiciary must be independent, and on first-line charge. If I’m not obeying that, there is a sanction for it.”
The governor explained that the state government had released all 2021 capital expenditure due to the judiciary since September.
He challenged the Federal Government to prove if it has done same.
Wike urged the Federal Government to desist from playing to the gallery with the issue of financial autonomy for the judiciary.
According to him, a Federal Government with decrepit High Court buildings across the country cannot truly claim it fully supports financial autonomy for the judiciary.
“Are they giving the judiciary at the federal level the budget they are supposed to have in order to put the courts in order?”
He warned that the Rivers State government would resist any attempt by the Federal Government to deduct funds meant for the state under the guise of implementing financial autonomy for the judiciary.
The governor said the NBA cannot continue to be docile while security agencies are used by the Federal Government to intimidate and harass judges.
According to him, “When the judiciary is destroyed, the legal profession is gone.”
Wike, also took a swipe at the past leadership of NBA for not protesting the closure of courts in Rivers State for almost two years by the Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led administration.
NBA president, Olumide Akpata, SAN, commended Wike for his unflinching support for the judiciary and the Bar.
Akpata said Wike’s conscientious support and defence of the judiciary was a pointer to his firm belief that the institution of state should be strengthened.