Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has accused the Federal Government of playing politics with judicial autonomy at the detriment of constitutional provisions.
Wike also said that already the no-work-no-pay policy had come into force in Rivers insisting that judiciary workers could no longer sit at home and expect salaries.
The governor made the observation at the inauguration and handover of the National Industrial Court Judges Quarters in Old Government Residential Area, Port Harcourt on Thursday.
Wike explained that under a federal system of government, only the executive arm of government has the powers to present the annual budget to either state or National Assembly and also signed it into law.
He said the new narrative that a presidential implementation committee had been set up and would direct governors to sign budgetary allocations for the judiciary was unconstitutional.
Wike said any federal government promoting judicial autonomy would not allow its courts to be shut for about two months by Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN).
He said: “Is it true that the federal government wants the autonomy of the judiciary? If the federal government wants the autonomy of the judiciary, how can a government say that the courts should be shut down for almost two months now? Which country can survive when its courts are shut down for two months?”
The governor said his administration had fully implemented the autonomy of the judiciary and the legislature with releases of their financial entitlements as captured in the budget up till 2021.
Wike explained that the funds released by Rivers to the judiciary far exceeded the planned deductions by the federal government.
He further declared that his administration was not owing parliamentary workers, who were also currently on sympathy strike.
Speaking on one of his motivations to provide judges with official residences, Wike recalled that when he was Chief of Staff, he received a call at about midnight that a judge was locked out of his rented apartment by a landlord.
He said: “From that day, I had this feeling that judges should not be so exposed to this kind of things that could lead to lose of their life. We have also acquired land to build for judges of the federal high court who are in rented apartment. And I know that the landlord has told me that they have not paid him for several years.
“That comes to tell you the kind of autonomy of the judiciary that the federal government says they believe in. We agree but the rent of their judges is there, they have not brought the money to pay.”
Inaugurating the facility, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad noted that Wike remained a strong voice in the clamour for judicial independence and financial autonomy.
Represented by Justice Mary Odili of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Muhammad, said Wike’s affection and innate passion for the welfare and wellbeing of the Nigerian judiciary was worthy of emulation.
“The Wike Model should be holistically espoused and replicated by other governors in the country for rapid development and growth of the Nigerian Judiciary.
“I would love to see this mind-blowing gesture, which I refer to as the emblem of humanitarianism, replicated all over the nooks and crannies of the country with a view to lifting the Nigerian Judiciary out of the current squalor which is, largely, inhibiting the seamless and speedy dispensation of justice.
“With this astounding feat, you have, for the umpteenth time, profoundly hoisted the banner of a true statesman.”
The Chief Justice declared that without any ambivalence, Wike remained a shining example in the comity of contemporary Nigerian political leaders, who had the interest and welfare of the Nigerian judiciary at heart, both in words and in action.
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“You are not doing this because you are a lawyer, as we have several lawyers occupying influential political offices in the country, but simply because you are a habitual care giver and development-conscious political leader,” he said.