Cross River Judiciary: 29 Magistrates Cry Over 18 Month Salary As Governor Ayade Copes With CJ Crisis, Two Suits By 22 State Counsels

In Breaking News, National News, Politics, Reports

By Archibong Jeremiah

The Cross River State Judiciary crisis has taken another dimension as a new case of 29 Magistrates owed 18 month salary has come to the surface.

This is coming at a time the Cross River State Government has been in locked-in battle over its modus operandi and vivendi in the judiciary.

The pockets of issues militating against the smooth operation of the judiciary has been described as unnecessary by many including Mba Ukweni, SAN on the background that the State Government is led by a learned colleague, Sen. Ben Ayade and ought not to be seen wanting in a constitutional and welfare crisis.

NJC, Ayade’s Government in Conflict over Appointment of Chief Judge

The Cross River State Government and National Judicial Council (NJC) has not been on same page since the retirement of Justice Michael Edem, November 2019 as the Chief Judge of the State High Court.

Justice Michael Edem while formally bowing out on Friday, November 29, 2019 at a valedictory Court session announced Justice Akon Ikpeme as the Acting Chief Judge of the State High Court pending ratification from NJC as nature abhors vacuum.

Before the valedictory session there has been heated argument going on quietly about Justice Edem’s replacement. The Governor had rooted to replace the outgoing Chief Judge with Justice Maurice Eneji, sidestepping his senior, Justice Akon Ikpeme.

In an attempt to actualize his objective, Governor Ayade inaugurated a new State Judicial Service Commission (JSC) excluding some old members and the former Chief Judge (Justice Michael Edem).

The ploy was spurned by Justice Michael Edem (rtd), Senior Advocates of Nigeria, NBA and a host of stakeholders in and outside the State contending that the most senior Judge of the High Court and not the most senior indigenous Judge takes over as in accordance with the provisions of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.

After the inauguration of a parallel JSC with Justice Obojor Ogar (rtd) as Chairman alongside Ntufam Joe Ebam, Dr. Teresa Ikwen and Barrister Etum Okune, the State High Court promptly placed an injunction restraining it, the Government and its agents from functioning. The injunction was secured by Edem Ita, Owa Egbara and Her Worship Fidelia Ene (rtd) for themselves and the authentic JSC members, the State Government and six others.

In spite of the injunction and rejection by stakeholders, the new JSC met (November 27, 2019) and in a letter by the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice who was newly inaugurated at the time, Tanko Ashang and four others forwarded the name of Justice Maurice Eneji as the preferred Chief Judge to NJC which wasn’t accepted.

After the battle of wits, Governor Ayade bowed and swore in Justice Akon Ikpeme as acting Chief Judge of the State High Court.

Governor Ben Ayade swearing in Justice Akon Ikpeme as acting Chief Judge of Cross RIver State. File copy.

Thrown into disarray, the State Legislature headed by Hon. Eteng William was seen as the umpire to set the record straight.

Worried about the outright rejection of the Court injunction by the Ayade led Executive and the new JSC, Justice Edem and others went back to Court and filed Form 48 dated November 28, 2019 (notice of consequence of disobedience to Court order of November 1, 2019).

Accordingly, the High Court issued a notice to the Speaker of the State Assembly dated November 28, 2019. The notice reads in part: Do please take notice that unless you obey the directions contained in this order, you will be guilty of contempt of Court and will be committed to the Federal Correctional Centre, Afokang.

The Cross River State House of Assembly on two different occasion rejected Justice Akon Ikpeme’s nomination for confirmation. First it was on Monday March 2, 2020 where the House had two factions from the Committee set up to screen her; one headed by Hon. Efa Esua (Calabar Municipal constituency) okayed her nomination while the other by late Hon. Godwin Akwaji (Obudu constituency) rejected her on grounds of being a security threat despite marrying an Efik man and served in the State Civil Service in juicy capacities. Second rejection was on Tuesday June 2, 2020 where Justice Maurice Eneji whose late wife served as Special Adviser to Linda Ayade, wife of Cross River State Governor nomination was confirmed after serving in acting capacity.

Governor Ben Ayade swearing in Justice Maurice Eneji as acting Chief Judge of the State High Court. FIle copy.

A Federal High Court which sat in Calabar and presided over by Justice Simon Amobeda (Court 2) had dismissed a fundamental rights suit seeking the declaration of the refusal of the Cross River House of Assembly to confirm Justice Akon Ikpeme on the basis of her origin on the grounds that the evidence presented was not “satisfactory.”

The Court also dismissed the preliminary objections filed by the three respondents challenging the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the matter as well as the locus standi of the applicants.

Five legal practitioners, Olukunle Edun, Ike Augustine, Adams Ochuagu, Emmanuel Ewere and Adedapo Adejumo had in a fundamental human rights suit filed before the Court sought the enforcement of the right of freedom from discrimination of Justice Akon Ikpeme following the actions of the State Legislature on March 2, 2020.

The Speaker of the Assembly, the ninth Assembly of the State and the Government of Cross River State were listed as first, second and third respondents.

The applicants had in their suit dated March 12, 2020 filed the next day sought five reliefs which included the three declarations that protected her right, an order to set aside the March 2, 2020 resolution of the Assembly on Justice Ikpeme as well as exemplary and aggravated damages in the sum of NGN100,000 million.

But, the respondents in a notice of preliminary objection dated and filed on March 30, 2020, claimed that the Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the subject matter as the application does not fall within the provisions of Section 251 of the 1999 constitution as amended and that the applicants lacked the locus standi to bring the application against the respondents having regards to section 46 subsection 1 of the constitution.

In his judgment, Justice Amobeda while ruling on the preliminary objections, held that “so long as the enforcement of human right is the principal claim then the High Court of a State or the FCT and the Federal High Court have concurrent jurisdictions.”

According to him, the five claims sought were in line with Chapter 4 and section 42 of the 1999 constitution as amended. He therefore held that the first ground of the preliminary objection was “misconceived” and dismissed.

On the second objection based on locus standi, Justice Amobeda who relied on paragraph 3E of the preamble of the Fundamental Human Rights Enforcement Procedure rules of the Court said the want of locus standi cannot be an impediment on a matter which the principal claim was on fundamental human rights.

Amobeda who held that “this application is not and cannot be affected by locus standi,” subsequently dismissed the second objection for lacking in merit.

On the substantive suit, Justice Amobeda said after a careful examination of the exhibits presented by the applicants, there was no where it was explicitly stated without ambiguity that the Assembly did not confirm Justice Ikpeme due to her State of origin.

He held that the exhibits were “mere reports” of Committees of the Assembly which can only become resolutions when passed on the floor of the Assembly.

Eteng Jones Williams, Speaker of the 9th Cross River State House of Assembly. File copy.

On whether the Court can set aside the resolutions of the Assembly, Justice Amobeda held that State Assemblies “are masters of their proceedings and thus cannot be compelled by this Court.”

Relying on section 271 of the 1999 constitution as amended, Justice Amobeda further held that “it is clear that the constitution of the House of Assembly of a State has the power to confirm or not to confirm” and since “the applicants have not satisfactorily justified their claim,” he said that the reliefs sought were “summarily refused and cannot be granted.”

Six Claimants Versus Governor Ben Ayade and Four Other in Suit No. NICN/CA/46/2019

The claimants represented by Essien H. Andrew (SAN) include; Eton Effiong Essien, Eno Iyamba, Abigail Bassey Asuquo, Ekok Asuo Okpokam, Glory Effiom Ironbar and Gabriel Awah Ebebe.

The suit which was filed on 5 December, 2019 named the State Governor, Ben Ayade as 1st defendant and the Government of Cross River State as 2nd defendant while the Attorney-General of Cross River State is named as 3rd defendant. Others are the Cross River State Civil Service Commission and the Cross River State Judicial Service Commission named as 4th and 5th defendants respectively.

According to the Court documents the case of the claimants is that they were employed by the 2nd defendant as Law Officers (State Counsel) in the Cross River State Ministry of Justice, with effect from December, 2016 and that after their employment the claimants were working initially under the direct supervision of the 3rd defendant in the Cross River State Ministry of Justice.

They further stated that due to their conscientious and diligent service to the defendants, their employments were duly confirmed by the 4th defendant after two years of meritorious service and issued “Letters of Confirmation of Appointment”.

The claimants also stated that they subsequently transferred their services to the Judiciary following their elevation/appointment as Magistrates in the Cross River State Judiciary with effect from 3 April, 2018 for the 1 claimant and 3 February, 2019 for the 2nd to 6th claimants and they were also issued with “Letters of Transfer of Service”.

That from January to August, 2019 the defendants made a monthly deduction of N5,666.70 for “HOS Computer” from each of the claimants’ salaries. And that the deductions were made without the claimants’ authority or consent and no computer has been given to any of the claimants for the deductions so made from their salaries. But between January to August 2019 the total sum of N45,333.60 were deducted by the defendants from the salary of each claimant for the “HOS Computer”.

The claimants are further alleging that in September, 2019 there was a whimsical and unwarranted removal of their names from Government payroll and as a result, the claimants instructed their solicitors to write a pre-action notice to the defendants demanding restoration of their names on the payroll.

That upon receipt of that pre-action notice, the defendants issued a Public Service Announcement calling on the representatives of all Civil/Public Servants affected by the removal of names from Government payroll to meet with the 1st defendant for a dialogue.

That the meeting with the 1st defendant was held on 20 November, 2019 (nine days before the retirement of Justice Edem) at the State Executive Council Chambers with the 1st and 2nd claimants in attendance. That the meeting turned out to be a briefing wherein the 1st defendant verbally informed all those whose names were removed from Government payroll (including the claimants) that their employment were illegal and invalid as it was done without any written approval or authorization from the 1st defendant.

The claimants also stated that in spite of the 1st defendant’s verbal comment none of the claimants have been served with any notice in writing terminating their employments. Consequently, the claimants are still discharging their professional services as Magistrates at the various Magistrate Courts to which they have been posted. They are still working even though their salaries have not been paid since September, 2019.

The claimants are asking the Court for:

A declaration that the claimants are bona fide employees of the defendants and their employments which are governed by statute and the Civil Service rules are still subsisting.

A declaration that the claimants, as lawful employees of the defendants, are entitled to all their earned and accrued salaries.

A declaration that the 1st defendant’s decision to remove the claimants’ names, from the 2nd defendant’s payroll is unjustifiable, unlawful, null and void.

An order directing the defendants to restore and reinstate all the claimants forthwith on the payroll of the Cross River State Government.

A declaration that the unauthorized monthly deductions made from the claimants’ salaries from January to August, 2019 for “HOS Computer” is unlawful, illegal and unjustifiable.

An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants either by themselves, their servants, agents or privies from making any further deductions for “HOS Computer” from the claimants’ earned salaries.

An order directing the defendants to pay the 1st claimant the sum of One Million, Nine Hundred and Ninety Thousand, Four Hundred and Eighty-Seven Naira, Ninety-Three kobo (N1,990,487.93) only as special damages.

An order directing the defendants to pay the 2nd to 6th claimants the sum of One Million, Five Hundred and Forty-Two Thousand, Six Hundred and Ninety-Five Naira, Thirteen kobo (N1,542,695.13) each as special damages.

An order directing the defendants to pay to the claimants jointly the sum of N500, 000, 000.00 (Five Hundred Million Naira) only as general damages for the excruciating difficulties, psychological trauma and emotional anxiety caused to the claimants by the defendants.

And 20% post judgment interest to be calculated on the total judgment debt from the date of judgment and until the judgment debt is paid in full.

The case is adjourned to 27 and 28 October, 2020 for defense, the claimants have closed their case, it is left for the defendants to tender its defense.

Sixteen Claimants Versus Cross River State Government and Two Others Suit NO. NICN/CA/__/2019

The claimants are Sylvester Ogar, Nkasi Ibor Ofem, Joseph Tony Atambi, Angelica Rewang Otu, Cletus Adama Abang, Ibi Mboto, Terem Inyambe, Oko Clement Edra and Dominic Ebiala Odey. Others are Gabriel Ugbong Unake, Udenyi Omaji, Endurance Ikpan, Michael Eban Kekung, Nkemdilim Bassey Agbor, Joy Bassey Ikpeme and Agiounim Elam Ukwayi.

Defendants are Cross River State Government, Attorney-General, Cross River State and Cross River State Civil Service Commission.

The sixteen claimants are represented by Joe Oloko, Esq., Imelda I. Mboto, Esq. F. N. Nachamada, Esq., A. R. Ezeala, Esq. and Miller Ojong, Esq. of Lex Fori Partners.

According to the Court documents, statement of facts by the claimants are as follows:

  1. The claimants are employees of the Cross River State Government currently deployed to the Cross River State Ministry of Justice as State Counsels.
  2. The 1st defendant is a creation of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the authority constitutionally empowered to administer the area designated Cross River State by the aforesaid constitution.
  3. The 2nd defendant is also a creation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and authorized by law to prosecute and defend actions for and on behalf of the 1st defendant.
  4. The 3rd defendant is also a creation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and authorized by law to appoint persons into the service of Cross River State as well as promote and discipline employees in the Cross River State Civil Service.
  5. The claimants got to know that the 1st defendant was recruiting persons to serve at the Cross River State Ministry of Justice from various newspaper publications which stated that His Excellency, Senator Benedict Ayade, Executive Governor of Cross River State had approved the recruitment of Law Officers. Further confirmation was gotten from radio advertisements for the employment of Law Officers into the service of the 1st defendant, Government of Cross River State.
  6. The claimants as a result of the advertisement and various newspaper publications picked up application forms from the Cross River State Civil Service Commission (3rd defendant) and submitted application letters and in hopes of employment into the Cross River State Ministry of Justice.
  7. On the 9th day of June 2016, at the Institute of Management, beside General Hospital, Calabar, the Cross River State Civil Service Commission in conjunction with the State Ministry of Justice conducted an aptitude test for legal practitioners seeking employment into the State’s Civil Service.
  8. The claimants participated fully as they sat for the said aptitude test alongside a number of their colleagues numbering about 150 persons.
  9. After the aptitude test, successful candidates, including the claimants, were interviewed by a panel at the State Civil Service Commission, New Secretariat, Murtala Muhammed Highway, Calabar, Cross River State.
  10. Amongst the panelists who conducted the interview were Mr. Joseph O. Abang (the then Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice), Mrs. Rosemary Obanya (the then Chairman Civil Service Commission), Mr. James O. Odok (Permanent Secretary, Civil Service Commission) and Mr. Ikoi E. Ikona (the Director of Civil Litigation, Cross River State Ministry of Justice).
  11. Successful candidates, including the claimants were issued Offers of Appointment as State Counsels on salary grade levels 12 and 10 respectively and subsequently, with Letters of Appointment.
  12. Upon resumption at the Cross River State Ministry of Justice, by a letter dated the 18th day of January 2017, the claimants were posted to their various departments and some were posted to the different out stations of the Ministry of Justice located at Akamkpa, Ikom and Ogoja Local Government Areas.
  13. Despite resuming for duties at their various posts, their salaries were not paid for up to a period of six (6) months from the month of December 2016 till May, 2017. It wasn’t until July, 2017 that they started receiving their salaries. The first salary paid was for the month of June, 2017.
  14. The claimants are still being owed their initial salaries for six (6) months from December, 2016 to May, 2017.
  15. Notwithstanding the initial non-payment of their salaries, the claimants continued discharging their duties diligently. The efforts of the claimants were recognized by the Ministry in December, 2017 when some of the claimants won awards as Most Productive Law Officers in their various Departments in the Cross River State Ministry of Justice at a Dinner and Award ceremony held at the Dome, Municipal Garden, Calabar Municipality Local Government Area, Cross River State hosted by the former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Cross River State with the Former Special Adviser, Administration, Hon. Mark Obi representing the Executive Governor of Cross River State.
  16. In 2019, the claimants were issued with letters confirming their appointments in the Cross River State Civil Service.
  17. In August 2019, the Cross River State Government through the Office of the Head of Service, Cross River State conducted a Personnel Audit exercise. The claimants participated in the exercise and were all cleared by the team set up to conduct the exercise. The claimants’ salaries for the month of August, 2019 were paid after they had been cleared.
  18. Some of the claimants have applied for and obtained credit facilities from their various banks where their salary accounts are domiciled. The credit facility is a Personal Loan against Salary which is guaranteed by the Cross River State Government.
  19. In September 2019, the claimants did not receive any salary as was expected. This was done without any notification. When they made several enquiries, they discovered that our names had been removed from the State’s payroll.
  20. Salaries for October, November and December were also paid and yet the claimants are still excluded from the payroll despite still performing their duties diligently.
  21. This situation has caused the claimants untold hardship as they are no longer able to meet up with their personal financial obligations as well as pay their loan facilities as and when due which is now accruing interest as a result of the default.

The claimants claim jointly and severally as follows:

  1. A declaration that the employment of the claimants is lawful, valid and subsisting.
  2. A declaration that the removal of the names of the claimants from the Cross River State payroll is unlawful, ineffective, null and void.
  3. A declaration that the continuous refusal of the defendants to pay the claimant’s its accrued salaries and allowance is unjustifiable, pre-mature, unlawful, null and void.
  4. An order reinstating the names of the claimants into the Cross River State payroll without loss of promotion, increment of salaries, allowances and emoluments.
  5. An order directing the defendants to pay the claimants all the accrued salaries, emoluments, allowances owed them from their respective dates of employment till date.

The case is still on at the Industrial Court in Calabar, when contacted for update on the case, Joe Oloko declined commenting.

Twenty-Nine (29) Magistrates Owed Eighteen (18) Months Salary

Investigation reveals that, the twenty-nine (29) Magistrates whose dilemma has given the crisis in the Cross River State judiciary a new twist were duly employed and issued appointment letter with effect from 3 February, 2019.

As part of the protocol, they were subjected to training alongside their colleagues under the supervision of seating Magistrates, then went to National Judicial Institute (NJI) Abuja for a 3 month certificate course. Upon returning, they were posted and are manning their stations till date.

As at press time they have not been paid from date of appointment. The 29 Magistrates and their peers are yet to get official cars and other spurs of the office.

The twenty-nine Magistrates owed for one year, six months are neophytes, they’re newly employed from the private sector into the Cross River State Civil Service.

Further investigation revealed that one of the Magistrates (name withheld) is currently having accommodation challenge which has resulted to the arraignment of the Magistrate whose name is not in print after receiving a quit notice.

As a group they have written to the Chief Judge of Nigeria, Attorney-General of the Federation, National Judicial Council, Cross River State Judicial Service Commission, acting Chief Judge of the State, Secretary to the State Government, Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the State and Governor Ben Ayade. In all the plea mission they went no response been gotten other than promises that has not translated into action of receiving their basic salary.

The names of the 29 Magistrates are as follows:

Agbor Ralph Achere, Ada Njar Ati, Agness Akomaye, Arit Edem, Benedicta Arikpo, Cecilia Ushie Ushang, Christiana Edem, Deborah Undie, Ekpenyong E. Adim, Elizabeth Edem, Okokon Essien, Francis Nyanga, George Bassey Effiom, Hilary Utebi Abeke, Mathias Ogar Ede and Nsaha Bassey.

Others are Maureen Ikpeme, Obobong Ambo, Raymond Adie, Rita Ikel Ititim, Safiya Iyeh Ashipu, Samuel Imoke Idaka, Solomon Abuo, Solomon Ikongshul, Susan Ogar, Valarie Oyeb Arikpo, Vera Francis Okon, Richard Bassey and Gabriel Iki.

We Are Aware – Magistrates Association of Nigeria, MAN, Cross River Chapter

An appointment was secured with the State Chapter President, Mrs. Tessy Agom. The interview was to get confirmation as well as detailed action by the union to address challenges of its members.

On reaching her office, after waiting for her Secretary who went in to inform the MAN President of this reporter’s presence returned after over five minutes, took her seat and just said “she’s on the phone”, when pressed further to ascertain if she informed her boss about the scheduled interview, she was reluctant to answer and snubbed Weekend File.

While pushing the Secretary further, the MAN Cross River chapter President who is the Director of Probate department emerged from her office and sorted out ongoing  misunderstanding with a colleague of hers who was visibly angry about an official issue. She pleaded for the aggrieved Director to check back again that she’s going out for a meeting.

Afterwards she asked for this reporter and reiterated that she’s off for a meeting. On her way out she confirmed that her office is aware about the 29 Magistrates and the Government is doing all it can. She concluded by warning that “we are not allowed to talk to the press”.

Cross River Authorities Silent

The Cross River State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Tanko Ashang was called severally and sent text message. But as at press time he hasn’t returned the missed calls or sms.

The Chief Registrar of the High Court, Chief Edem Okokon was also called and message sent but no response too as at the time filing this report.

Position of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) of the Federal Republic of Nigerian

Chapter 5, part 2, section 121 sub 3 which dwells on disbursement of funds held: 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.

Going further, chapter 6, part 2, section 202 which talks about autonomy says: In exercising its power to make appointments or to exercise disciplinary control over persons the State Civil Service Commission, the State Independent Electoral Commission and the State Judicial Service Commission shall not be subject to the direction and control of any other authority or person.

According to chapter 7, part 2, section 271, sub 1-5 states on appointment of Chief Judge of a State that: (1) The appointment of a person to the office of Chief Judge of a State shall be made by the Governor of the State on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to confirmation of the appointment by the House of Assembly of the State.

(2) The appointment of a person to the office of a Judge of a High Court of a State shall be made by the Governor of the State acting on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council.

(3) A person shall not be qualified to hold office of a Judge of a High Court of a State unless he is qualified to practise as a legal practitioner in Nigeria and has been so qualified for a period of not less than ten years.

(4) If the office of Chief Judge of a State is vacant or if the person holding the office is for any person unable to perform the functions of the office, then until a person has been appointed to and has assumed the functions of that office, or until the person holding the office has resumed those functions, the Governor of the State shall appoint the most senior Judge of the High Court to perform those functions.

(5) Except on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council an appointment pursuant to subsection (4) of this section shall cease to have effect after expiration of three months from the date of such appointment and the Governor shall not re-appoint a person whose appointment has lapsed.

Implementation of Financial Autonomy of State Legislature and State Judiciary Order, 2020

PRESIDENTIAL EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 00-10 OF 2020

PRESIDENTIAL EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 00- 10 BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF FINANCIAL AUTONOMY FOR THE STATE LEGISLATURE AND STATE JUDICIARY AND FOR OTHER RELATED MATTERS

President Buhari and Governor Ben Ayade at the groundbreaking ceremony for the 260 km superhighway last year. File copy.

WHEREAS a Presidential Implementation Committee was constituted to fashion out strategies and modalities for the implementation of financial autonomy for the State Legislature and State Judiciary in compliance with section 121 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended); taking into considerations all other applicable laws, instruments, conventions and regulations, which provides for financial autonomy at the State tier of Government;

WHEREAS implementation of financial autonomy of the State Legislature and State Judiciary will strengthen the institutions at the State tier of Government and make them more independent and accountable in line with the tenets of democracy as enshrined by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended); and

BY THE POWER vested in me as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under Section 5 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended), which extends to the execution and maintenance of the Constitution, laws made by the National Assembly (including but not limited to Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as Amended), which guarantee financial autonomy of the State Legislature and State Judiciary.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, IN EXERCISE OF THE POWER CONFERRED ON ME, DO HEREBY ORDERS AS FOLLOWS –

Appropriation, Authorisation, Orders, Etc.

(a)         Without prejudice to any other applicable laws, legislations and conventions at the State tier of Government, which also provides for financial autonomy of State Legislature and State Judiciary, allocation of appropriated funds to the State Legislature and State Judiciary in the State appropriation laws in the annual budget of the State, shall be a charge upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State, as a First Line Charge.

(b)         The Accountant-General of the Federation shall by this Order and such any other Orders, Regulations or Guidelines as may be issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, authorise the deduction from source in the course of Federation Accounts Allocation from the money allocated to any State of the Federation that fails to release allocation meant for the State Legislature and State Judiciary in line with the financial autonomy guaranteed by Section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended).

Determination of the Budget

Notwithstanding the provisions of any existing law, convention or regulation, other than the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended), providing for appropriation or management of funds at the State tier of Government as follows –

every State Government of the Federation shall set up a Committee from the commencement of this Executive Order comprising the Commissioner of Finance, Accountant-General of the State, representative of the State Budget Office, Chief Registrars of State High Court, Sharia Court of Appeal and Customary Court of Appeal, (where applicable), the Clerk to the State House of Assembly and the Secretary of the State Judicial Service Committee or Commission;

where applicable, determine and ascertain from the Revenue profile of the State, a workable budget for each Arm of the State Government based on the request and needs of the Accounting Officers; and

the Committee shall be given and accorded legal recognition in the various relevant appropriation or Funds Management Laws of the States.

Creation of State Judiciary Budget Committee

(a)       For the purpose of Appropriation to the State Judiciary, each State Judiciary of the federation shall set up a State Judiciary Budget Committee (in this Order referred to as “a Committee”) to serves as an administrative body to prepare, administer and implement the budget of the State Judiciary with such modifications as may be required to meet the needs of the State Judiciary.

(b)      The Committee shall consist of the State Chief Judge as the Chairman with the Grand Kadi, Sharia Court of Appeal, the President, Customary Court of Appeal, where applicable and two members of the Judicial Service Committee or Judicial Service Commission to be appointed by the Chief Judge, in consultation with other Members of the Committee, to serve as Members.

(c)   The Chief Registrar of the State High Court is to serve as Secretary.

(d)      The modalities for budget preparations and implementation shall include but not limited to the following:

(i)        upon the receipt of the Budget Estimates of the Fiscal     Year for the State Judiciary, the State Judiciary Budget Committee shall invite all the Accounting Officers of the various Courts/Judicial Bodies to defend their budget estimates;

(ii) the budget estimates for Courts and Judicial bodies shall be based on expenditure line items given to them by the State Judiciary Budget Committee which shall be defended before the State House of Assembly; and

(iii) upon the appropriation of Funds, the State Judiciary Budget Committee shall on a monthly basis or as the case may be, request the Budget Office of the State to release the statutory allocation for the quarter or monthly and the Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIE) shall be raised by the Office of the Accountant-General of the State for the release of the Fund to all the Heads of Courts/Judicial Bodies in line with the Appropriation Law.

Budget Preparation, Templates and Modalities

(a)         Without prejudice to any existing budget templates in force in any States of the federation, the State Legislature and State Judiciary shall continue to maintain the strata of line consultations, inter Arms and inter-Agency pre-budget consultations and frontloading as is done in some States.

(b)         The budget templates and models in the schedule to this Executive Order shall apply to State Legislature and State Judiciary with modifications, in compliance with Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended) and such other applicable Laws.

Appropriation and Supplementary Appropriation Law, Etc.

(a)         At the commencement of this Order for implementation of financial autonomy for State Legislature and State Judiciary in line with section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended), all States of the Federation shall include the allocations of the two Arms of Government in their Appropriation Laws.

(b)         Where Appropriation Law exists in any State of the federation before the commencement and implementation of this Order, such States shall amend their Appropriation Law to encompass financial autonomy of State Legislature and State Judiciary.

(c)         This Order expects States without Appropriation Law on financial autonomy of State Legislature and State Judiciary to do so.

Special Allocation for the Judiciary

(a)         Notwithstanding the provisions of this Executive Order, in the first three years of its implementation, there shall be special extraordinary capital allocations for the Judiciary to undertake capital development of State Judiciary Complexes, High Court Complexes, Sharia Court of Appeal, Customary Court of Appeal and Court Complexes of other Courts befitting the status of a Courts.

(b)         In this section, “Other Courts” includes Magistrate Courts, District Courts, Customary Courts and Area Courts.

Implementation of this Order

(a)         Subject to section 8(1) of this Order, implementation of the provisions of this Order shall be carried out by the Presidential Implementation Committee in accordance with its recommendations.

(b)         To the extent as may be permitted by law, the Accountant-General of the Federation shall take appropriate steps to ensure compliance with the provisions of this Order and implementation of the recommendations of the Committee, as may from time to time be made.

(c)         This Order shall be implemented consistently with States applicable laws that guarantee financial autonomy of State Legislature and State Judiciary and subject to the availability of funds.

Citation

This ORDER may be cited as the Implementation of Financial Autonomy of State Legislature and State Judiciary Order, 2020.

Commencement

This Executive Order shall take effect from this 20th Day of May, 2020.

Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR,

President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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By Jonathan Ugbal Ahead of the October 31, 2020 senatorial bye-election in Cross River northern district, the Independent National

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