The Nigerian Senate has urged the governors of the state in the country to immediately grant full autonomy to the judiciary to avoid the collapse of the country’s democracy.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, stated this while reacting to the protest staged at the National Assembly by the Nigerian Bar Association on the issue.
President Muhammadu Buhari had last year, signed into law, the Executive Order No 10 of 2020 cited as “the implementation of financial autonomy for state legislature and judiciary Order, 2020”.
The Order granted powers to the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct from the allocations due to a state from the Federation Account, any sums appropriated for the legislature or judiciary of that state which the state fails to release to its legislature or judiciary as the case may be, and to pay the funds directly to the state’s legislature or judiciary concerned.
Speaking with journalists, Bamidele said judicial autonomy was non-negotiable and that state governors should emulate the Federal Government by granting independence to the arm of government.
He said, “It is laughable that at this point, we are still grappling with the need to grant independence to the judiciary arm of government at the state level and at the local government levels.
“The National Assembly has been making laws that would guarantee full autonomy to the judiciary at the Federal level.
“The National Assembly does not make laws for the states, such power resides in the state Houses of Assembly.
“Judiciary at the Federal Capital Territory is independent because we have done what we (National Assembly) are supposed to do.
“What is next is for the state Houses of Assembly to do what they are supposed to do.
“As a principle, and as a policy, members of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, have tried not to call on those who are protesting to stop such protests.
“We do not want protests but definitely, we would rather talk more to state governors houses of Assembly and other stakeholders to do the needful in the overriding public interest.
“We cannot continue to call on the judiciary to give peace a chance when we know the conditions under which they work cannot guarantee a passionate and enhanced delivery of justice.
“We are talking about judicial reforms, we are talking about the need for justice sector reforms.
“This is central and crucial to the independence of the judiciary in this country. We must not be left behind by the rest of the civilized world.
“Nobody stands to lose anything by granting independence to judiciary at the state level since it has been done at the national level.
“The fact that workers and staff of federal judiciary are joining the protest is only in solidarity with their colleagues at the state levels.
“It is a union matter and we do not have control over it. We are hereby calling on the state governors to do the needful because the independence of the judiciary is non-negotiable.
“No democracy can survive without being founded on the rule of law and independent judiciary.”