·As Wike says with constitutional guarantees, no need to send Rivers judiciary financial autonomy bill to the state Assembly
By Ignatius Chukwu
Rivers State government says it will resist any attempt by the federal government to deduct funds at source from its allocation for the judiciary. The FG had issued Executive Order 10 which gave autonomy to the judiciary and allows the FG to deduct from source and send to the judiciary of each state.
The governor revealed the plans to resist the move at the party in honour of delegates to the 2021 Annual General Conference (AGC) of the Nigerian Bar Association which is being attended physically by 9000 lawyers and another 10,000 online out of the over 120,000 strong membership of the largest bar in Africa.
The governor said the FG cannot tell him how to run his state. He explained that the State government had released entire 2021 capital expenditure due to the judiciary since September. He challenged the FG to prove it has done same.
Gov Wike urged the FG to desist from playing to the gallery with the issue of financial autonomy for the judiciary. According to him, a FG 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?”
Gov Wike said with constitutional guarantees in existence, he would not bother to send a bill to the Rivers State House of Assembly for financial autonomy of the state’s judiciary.
The governor noted that since Nigeria does not practise unitary system of government, it would be wrong for the FG to issue directives to States on how they should run their affairs.
He stated: “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 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.”
Gov Wike, also took a swipe at the past leadership of NBA for not protesting against the closure of courts in Rivers State for almost two years by the Governor Chibuike Amaechi led administration.
He used the occasion to eulogise the Chairman of Council of Legal Education, Nigerian Law School, Emeka Ngige (SAN) for endorsing the establishment of the Port Harcourt campus of the Nigerian Law School.
The Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly, Ikuinyi Owaji-Ibani, charged the NBA to at all time stand in defence of the interest of people of the country.
The President, Nigerian Bar Association, Olumide Akpata (SAN), commended Gov Wike for his unflinching support for the judiciary and the Bar.
Akpata said Gov Wike’s conscientious support and defence of the judiciary is a pointer to his firm belief that institution of State should be strengthened.
The NBA President stated that when Gov Wike leaves office, posterity will remember him as a man who fervently contributed his quota to nation building.
Chairman, Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria in Rivers State and former NBA President, Onueze C.J Okocha, lauded Gov Wike for his numerous landmark achievements in office.