Governor, Nyesom Wike of Rivers State said on Tuesday that the State Government will not enact a bill for financial autonomy of the Judiciary.
Governor Wike made this assertion at the dinner in honour of delegates to the 61st annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, held at the banquet hall, Government House, Port Harcourt on Monday night.
Wike maintained that it will be futile to bother the State Assembly with such a bill since the 1999 constitution as amended already recognizes the independence of the judiciary.
This was contained in a statement issued by Kelvin Ebiri, media aide to the Rivers State Governor on Tuesday afternoon titled ‘Why Rivers won’t enact bill for financial autonomy of the judiciary – Gov Wike’.
The governor noted that since Nigeria does not practice a unitary system of government, it would be wrong for the Federal Government to issue directives to States on how they should run their affairs.
“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,” Wike stated.
The governor explained that the State government had released all 2021 capital expenditure due to the judiciary since September, and challenged the Federal Government to prove it has done the same.
Governor Wike urged the Federal Government to desist from playing to the gallery with the issue of financial autonomy for the judiciary.
According to him, a Federal Government with decrepit High Court buildings across the country cannot truly claim it fully supports financial autonomy for the judiciary.
He said, “Are they giving the judiciary at the federal level the budget they are supposed to have in order to put the courts in order?”
Governor Wike warned that the Rivers State government will resist any attempt by the Federal Government to deduct funds meant for the State under the guise of implementing financial autonomy for the judiciary.
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.”
Governor 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 Rotimi 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, Rt. Hon. Ikuinyi Owaji-Ibani, charged the NBA to at all times stand in defence of the interest of the people of the country.
The President, Nigerian Bar Association, Olumide Akpata, SAN, commended Governor Wike for his unflinching support for the judiciary and the Bar.
Akpata said Governor Wike’s conscientious support and defence of the judiciary is a pointer to his firm belief that the institution of State should be strengthened.