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Judiciary Funding: Supreme Court Reserves Judgement in 36 State Governments’ Suit Against FG

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CJN Tanko Mohammed

The Supreme Court on Monday reserved judgment in a suit filed by the 36 state governors seeking order to compel the Federal Government to take up funding of capital projects for states High Courts, Sharia Courts of Appeal and Customary Courts of Appeal.

The governors in the suit also applied for an order of the apex court to compel the Federal Government to pay them N66bn, being an amount spent on capital projects for the three courts in their respective suits.

The panel of seven justices led by Justice Muhammad Dattijo was told that the three courts were the courts of the federation and as such, the funding of their capital projects should flow from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the federation.

  • Lawyer to the state governors and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Augustine Alegeh (SAN), argued that the salaries and monuments of the Judges of the three Courts were being paid by the Federal Government in line with Section 81 of the 1999 constitution.

He argued that as such, the Section should be invoked to place the responsibility of funding their capital projects at the door steps of the Federal Government.

But the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), represented by Tijani Gazali (SAN), opposed the request of the states and urged the apex court to dismiss the request of the plaintiffs

The AGF premised his argument on the fact that while the issue of salary and monuments were expressly stated in the 1999 constitution as the responsibility of the Federal Government, the section was silent on the capital project.

Gazali stated that since the states have been responsible for the funding of capital projects for the Courts since 1999, the position should be maintained.

He urged the Justices to dismiss the suit and award substantial cost against the states.

To resolve the constitutional crisis, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko has  invited five Senior Advocates of Nigeria as Amici Curies (friends of the Court) for their input in resolving the matter.

However. three out of the five SANs Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba and Chief Sebastine Hon, threw their weight behind the request of the 36 governors.

The lawyers in  their separate submissions, argued that the Federal Government should be responsible for the funding of capital project for the three Courts, since they are Courts established for the federation.

Two other SANS, Mahmud Magaji and Musibawu Adetumbi, expressed dissenting  views on the contentious issue.

They aligned themselves with the AGF that capital projects for the three Courts should be funded by the states and not the Federal Government.

Adetunbi was of the view that the constitution has sufficiently provided the manner the Federal Government and states should fund their courts.

“My position is that part of the load that the constitution wants the Federal Government to carry is narrowed down in Section 84 (7) while Section 121 also narrow down the load it wants the state governments to carry”, he said.

  • He faulted Executive Order 10 and prayed the court to grant only relief 9 and dismiss reliefs 1 to 8.

After taking arguments for them, Justice Dattijo announced that judgment has been reserved and that parties will be communicated as soon as it would be ready.

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