Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has cried out against the Federal Governemnt on its decision to deduct monies meant for state judiciaries at source, saying it was “illegal and ill-advised.
He condemned the decsion even as he said that the Executive Order 10 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari to effect its implementation was in breach of the Nigerian Constitution. Wike argued that rather than aid the promotion of an independent judiciary, the decision, if implemented, would create more problems which he reasoned would hamper its independence.
Governor Wike made the position known during a special court session organised to mark the opening of the 2020/2021 legal year of the Rivers state judiciary in Port Harcourt on Friday.
He argued that the action of the Federal Government constitutes a clear breach of the constitutional powers of the State Governors to manage state’ resources in a federal system. According to him, the Federal Government could not legitimately claim to be more interested in the progress of state’ judiciaries than the governors of the respective states, includinb Rivers.
The governor stated that independence of the judiciary is not only about finances, but the ability of judicial officers to write judgments without the fear of being harassed by officers of the Department of State Services, DSS, or the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC.
Governor Wike noted that while the issue of inadequate funding for the judiciary had been a recurrent challenge preventing the judiciary across the nation from enjoying practical autonomy and efficiency, under his administration, the judiciary in Rivers State had had it differently.
The governor took a swipe at the Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Port Harcourt branch, Prince Nyekwere, for alleging that some persons were extrajudicially killed by the military in the aftermath of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, alleged killing of six soldiers, four policemen, and destruction of all police stations and Court buildings in Oyigbo.
He wondered why the NBA that was yet to make a formal submission to the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the state to probe the atrocities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, in the state would, without evidence, allege extrajudicial killings in Oyigbo.
The governor lauded the State Chief Judge, Hon. Justice Adama Iyaye Lamikanra, for her illustrious service and commitment to the progress of the judiciary in the state.
Wike, who recalled the opposition to her appointmemt as the State’s Chief Judge on the ground that she was a non-indigene, noted with delight her brilliant performance which he said had vindicated the government’s decision to support her appointment.
“As the Chief Judge, you have been honest, effective and transformational. Under your leadership the judiciary developed effective cooperation with the executive and the legislative branches of government to secure, strengthen and advance the administration of justice.”
In her remarks, Justice Iyaye-Lamikanra lauded Governor Wike for providing the state judiciary the needed funds to ensure people had unhindered access to justice.
She condemned the destruction of all court buildings in Oyigbo by members of the outlawed IPOB, describing it as a set back for dispensation of justice.
The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Professor Zacchaeus Adangor, said his ministry as an institutional stakeholder in the justice sector, would continue to cooperate and collaborate with the State judiciary and other stakeholders in driving the necessary reform and improving the administration of justice.
Earlier, there was a re-dedication church service that held at St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral Church, Port Harcourt where Governor Wike took the First Lesson, while the Second was taken by the Chief Judge of the State.
In his sermon, the Archbishop of Port Harcourt Methodist Church of Nigeria, Most Reverend Sunday Agwu admonished on the need for the judiciary to continue to uphold the truth, fairness and justice without compromise.
He noted that most judicial officers devote more time pursuing financial gratifications in order to deliver justice to favour the highest bidders to the detriment of the poor.
Archbishop Agwu reminded them to do self evaluation on this occasion of rededication service so that they can resolve to confidently check the excesses of the other arms of government and contribute their quota to building a virile society.
Governor Wike was accompanied by his wife, Justice Suzzette Nyesom-Wike, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Senator Sam Anyanwu and other dignitaries.