The crisis over the implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary has metamorphosed into a lawsuit against the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and the 36 States of the federation.
The Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) had embarked on a national strike leading to the closure of Nigerian courts for two months over the issue.
Others joined in the legal battle as defendants are the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
In his originating summons dated June 18, the plaintiff, Emeka Okoye, an Abuja-based legal practitioner, sued the 36 States through their Attorneys General.
The summons has commanded all the defendants to enter their appearance in court within 30 days upon service of the originating process.
In the suit, the plaintiff, through his counsel, Chief Oba Maduabuchi, is seeking an order of the Federal High Court, “directing the Federation Account Allocation Committee (2nd defendant) to henceforth pay directly all monies standing to the credit of the judiciary to the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The plaintiff is further praying for ‘an order directing the Accountant General of each state of the federation to pay directly to each head of court in the state, all such fund standing to the credit of the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state.
In arriving at the proposed orders, the court is asked to determine the following questions of law: ‘Whether by the provisions of sections 121 (1), (2) and (3) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), it is proper for the state governor to include the budgetary expenditure of the judiciary in the state which is charged upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state in the budgetary estimates the governor presents to the state House of Assembly?
‘Whether by the provisions of section 121 (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(as amended), it is proper to pay funds standing to the credit of the judiciary in the state to any other person or authority outside the heads of court in the various states as directed by section 121(3) of the 1999 constitution?
‘Whether by the community reading of sections 81(3), 121(3) and 162(9) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(as amended), the Federation Account Allocation Committee is right in paying the fund standing to the credit of the judiciary to various state governors and not National Judicial Council as directed by the above sections of the constitution?
In a 19-paragraphs affidavit in support of the suit, the plaintiff deposed to the fact that the 1999 constitution is the grand norm upon which all laws and actions of governments and agencies derive their powers and authority.
That Nigeria upon independence adopted a Federal system of government with three tiers of government Federal, State and Local Governments and three arms of government, Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.
Okoye further deposed to the fact that the 1999 constitution created ten courts both for the federation and the 36 States.
That the same constitution made various provisions for the disbursements of funds due to the judiciary from the federation account to be paid directly to the National Judicial Council and not any other person or authority.
That the constitution equally makes provisions for how funds standing to the credit of the judiciary from the consolidated funds in the states are to be disbursed and they are to be paid directly to the various heads of courts of the various states.
That the defendants hitherto paid the monies due to the judiciary to the governors of the 36 States instead of the National Judicial Council and heads of court in the states.
That the direct payment of the fund due to the judiciary to the governors of the 36 States is against the spirit and letters of the 1999 constitution.
That the NJC is the only body authorised by the constitution to receive and distribute funds due to the judiciary either in states or the federal courts for their capital and recurrent expenditures.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the matter.