A Senior Advocate of Nigeria J.S. Okutepa has express worry over the delay of State Governors to implement Financial Autonomy for State Judiciary which as a result has crippled Judicial services across the country.

He also expressed displeasure over the Federal Government’s lackadaisical approach towards ending the Industrial action, charging them to compel the State Governors to embrace what is Constitutional or better still do the needful by taking the bull by the horn.

The Learned Silk noted that the JUSUN Strike which started on 6th April 2021 has lingered to its third week without end in sight.

J. S. Okutepa SAN noted that the genesis of the strike is traced to failure, refusal, and indeed constitutional insubordination of state governors to comply with the provisions of section 121(3) of the 1999 constitution as amended.

Okutepa SAN expressed that it is incumbent on the Federal Government of Nigeria to solve the current problem by paying obedience to the provisions of the constitution. He noted it is no doubt that the duty to enforce and see to the enforcement of the provisions of the constitution is on the president sighting section 5 of the 1999 constitution.

He further noted Section 121  of 1999 is clear in import and meaning. It reads:

121(1) ” The Governor shall cause to be prepared and laid before the House of Assembly at any time before the commencement of each financial year estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the State for the next following financial year”

(2)  ” The heads of expenditure contained in the estimates, other than expenditure charged upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State by this Constitution, shall be included in a bill, to be known as an Appropriation Bill, providing for the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State of the sums necessary to meet that expenditure and the appropriation of those sums for the purposes specified therein”

(3) “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”

(4) If in respect of any financial year, it is found that –

(a) the amount appropriated by the Appropriation Law for any purpose is insufficient, or

(b) a need has arisen for expenditure for a purpose for which no amount has been appropriated by the Law, a supplementary estimate showing the sums required shall be laid before the House of Assembly and the heads of any such expenditure shall be included in a Supplementary Appropriation Bill.

Okutepa SAN, further noted from the provision of section 121 (3) of the constitution, that it is the duty of the state governors to pay any amount standing to the credit of the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State directly to the heads of the courts concerned.

Unequivocally stating that the words used therein is shall which makes it compulsory on the State Governors to abide by, there is no debate about it.

The Learned Silk also made it clear that  “Now that the governors have all chosen to obey the constitution in breach, the Federal Government through the office of Attorney of the Federation has only one duty to do. There is evidence of non-compliance with section 121(3) of the constitution on the parts of the governors. Budgets of each state have been passed. The failure of the state governments to respect the provisions of the constitution has resulted to the paralysis of judicial services across the Federation. So I suggest that Federal Government beg JUSUN to call off the strike for three months. In the main time, Attorney General of the Federation should be directed by the president and commander in chief to approach the Supreme Court seeking an order to deduct at such and pay to heads of courts through the NJC any amount standing to the credit of the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State. That order once secured exists in perpetuity”.

Noting that it is the only way we can beat the selfish agenda of Nigerian governors who have decided to breach the constitution of Nigeria which they swore to uphold.

Okutepa SAN further called on all well-meaning legal practitioners to help by offering their free legal services and help restore constitutional sanity to our system.

Expressing that “There is no need to debate what the constitution has said shall be paid to the heads of courts. Section 1(1) of the constitution says the constitution is supreme. Section 1(2) says Nigeria shall be governed in accordance with the provisions of the constitution”.

J.S. Okutepa further expressed that Section 121(3) of the constitution talks about financial governance in relation to financial autonomy of the judiciary. Stating that the failure of the State governors to obey this clear provision amounts in his humble view to constitutional treason.

Therefore calling on the Federal Government to as a matter of must approach the Supreme Court to secure the enforcement of the provisions of section 121(3) of the constitution.

” I, therefore, call on the Federal Government to do this without further delay”.

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