Two lawyers; John Aikpokpo-Martins and Olukunle Edun, have dragged President Muhammadu Buhari before a Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja, over alleged failure to comply with the constitutional provisions on annual budget presentation of the judiciary.
Aikpokpo-Martins and Edun, 1st and 2nd plaintiffs, who appeared before Justice Inyang Ekwo with an originating summons on Friday, also sued the National Assembly (NASS), National Judicial Council (NJC) and the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) as 2nd to 4th defendants, respectively.
Aikpokpo-Martins is the 1st Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and Edun is the National Welfare Secretary of the NBA.
In the originating summons marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1037/2022 dated and filed July 1, the plaintiffs also alleged that the president and other defendants had refused to obey the order of the court in a judgment delivered by Justice Ahmed Mohammed of an FHC, Abuja, in suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/63/2013 on May 26, 2014, between Olisa Agbakoba and the Attorney-General of the Federation and two others.
The lawyers, therefore, prayed the court for an order compelling the 3rd defendant (NJC) to, henceforth, lay the estimates of its expenditure directly before the 2nd defendant (NASS) for appropriation without further recourse to the 1st defendant (president).
“An order directing and/or compelling the 2nd defendant to henceforth receive from the 3rd defendant the estimates of its expenditure and consider same for appropriation purposes.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 3rd defendant from further submitting, giving, presenting the budget and/or expenditure estimates of the judiciary to the 1st defendant, his subordinates and/or any of its agents (agencies), departments, officials and servants and/or any other executive authority for the purpose of budgeting or appropriation or any purpose howsoever.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st defendant from further demanding, presenting and/or laying the expenditure estimates of the judiciary before the 2nd defendant for appropriation or any purpose howsoever.
“An order compelling the Accountant-General of the Federation to pay to the 3rd defendant, directly, unconditionally and without further executive approving protocols or resort to the 1st defendant, its subordinates, officers and servants: all such extant monies appropriated by the 2nd defendant and standing to the credit of the 3rd defendant in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation immediately and not later than the 30th day of December, 2022 or immediately upon judgment in this case.
“An order restraining the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants, their subordinates and/or any of their agents (agencies), departments, officials and servants from doing anything further that will amount to a breach of the clear provisions of Sections 80(2), 80(4), 8i(2) & 83(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As amended) or in flagrant disregard of the judgment of the Federal High Court in FHC/ABJ/CS/63/2013: OLISA AGBAKOBA VS. THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION & 2 ORS.”
Aikpokpo-Martins, in an affidavit he deposed to, averred that the NJC is a constitutional creation with the responsibility of appointing, disciplining and payment of the salaries, emoluments and other benefits of federal judicial officers and staff, including judges recommended by them for appointment by state governments in Nigeria.
“That the 4th defendant (AGF) is a statutory creation that is responsible for the payment and/or release of funds to various bodies/persons from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation as authorised by the Appropriation Act.
“That I know as a fact that there are three arms of government in Nigeria: the executive, headed by the 1st defendant; the legislature, represented by the 2nd defendant and the judiciary represented by the 3rd defendant but headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, who is also the chairman of the 3rd defendant, the National Judicial Council.”
The legal practitioner said that each of the three arms of government is constitutionally independent but mutually co-operative of one another.
“That I know as a fact that the current budgeting practice of the judiciary is to present its estimates of revenue/expenditure to the Budget Office or such other executive body under the 1st defendant and defend same at the said Budget Office or the said office.
“The Budget Office or the said executive body of the 1st defendant thereafter includes the estimates of expenditure of the judiciary in its general estimates of revenue and expenditure, and presents same to the National Assembly for appropriation for the next financial period or such other period.
“That I know as a fact that the 3rd defendant does not and/or is not allowed by the 1st and 2nd defendants to present its estimates of expenditure directly to the National Assembly and therefore, is given no opportunity to defend or justify same.
“That I know as a fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), a body which independence is as guaranteed as the judiciary by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and which expenditure is also charged to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation as the judiciary, presents the estimates of its expenditure directly to the National Assembly and defends/justify same without the interference, involvement or through the medium of the Budget Office or any other executive authority of the 1st defendant.
“That I know as a fact that, just like INEC, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As amended) mandatorily provides that the expenditure of the judiciary (the 3rd defendant) shall be charged or paid as first line charge from the Consolidated Funds of the Federation but this has not been the practice.
“That I know as a fact that the joint provisions of Sections 80(2), 80(4), 8i(2) & 83(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As amended), the expenditure of the judiciary shall be charged on the Consolidated Fund of the Federation and paid directly to the 3rd defendant.
“That I know as a fact that the 1st and 2nd defendants adopt the ‘Envelope’ practice where the sums released to the 3rd defendant for the expenditure of the judiciary is pre-determined by the 1st and 2nd defendants and does not exceed a particular amount at any given year, notwithstanding the increase in the expenditure of the judiciary or increase in the revenue of the Federal Government.
“That I know as a fact that the 1st and 2nd defendants do not apply the same ‘Envelope’ system to their individual budgets, and are usually allocated huge and magnanimous funds, which increases every year.”
According to Aikpokpo-Martins, the strangulation of the judiciary by the conspiracy of both the executive and legislative arms of government has made the judiciary unable to perform its constitutionally-mandated functions effectively and independently, with judicial officers and staff being de-motivated by low pay and worsening condition of service.
Justice Ekwo, after the lawyers moved their motion, adjourned the matter till September 28 for further mention.
He ordered that the defendants be served with the court processes and the hearing notices of the next adjourned date./SHARE THIS