From Emmanuel Iyoho
The Supreme Court of Nigeria has declared as unlawful and unconstitutional, Executive Order 10 (EO10) on the funding of State Judiciary and Legislature, even as it dismissed the N66 billion suit filed by state governors against the Federal government.
This is sequel to a split decision last Friday, which a majority of the court’s seven-member panel agreed that the President exceeded his constitutional powers in issuing the EO10.
Six of the seven members of the panel proceeded to void and set aside the EO10 issued by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Meantime, the apex court also dismissed the N66 billion suit filed by the state governors against the Federal government.
The 36 state governors had, in the suit, sought an order of the court to compel the Federal Government to take up funding of capital projects for State High Courts, Sharia Court of Appeal, and Customary Court of Appeal.
The governors had also applied for an order of the apex court to compel the Federal government to pay them N66 billion, being an amount they have so far spent on capital projects for the three courts.
They informed the apex court that the three courts were the courts of the Federation and as such, the funding of their capital project should flow from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in May 2020 signed the EO10 into law and set up a committee to fashion out strategies and modalities for the implementation of financial autonomy for the state legislature and judiciary.
A statement from the office of the attorney-general of the federation had explained that the President’s action was in compliance with section 121(3) of the Constitution, taking into considerations all other applicable laws, instruments, conventions, and regulations, which provide for financial autonomy at the state tier of government.
It stated that the implementation of financial autonomy of the State Legislature and Judiciary would strengthen the institutions at the state level and make them more independent and accountable in line with the tenets of democracy as enshrined by the Constitution.
“The President signed the Executive Order number 10 into law based on the power vested in him as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under Section 5 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended), which extends to the execution and maintenance of the Constitution, laws made by the National Assembly (including but not limited to Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which guarantee financial autonomy of the State Legislature and State Judiciary,” said the statement issued on May 22, 2020.
It noted that the EO10 provided among others that the Accountant-General of the Federation shall authorise the deduction from source in the course of Federation Accounts Allocation from the money allocated to any state that fails to release allocation meant for the State Legislature and Judiciary, in line with the financial autonomy guaranteed by Section 121(3) of the Constitution.
To this end, Article 6 (1) provides that “notwithstanding the provisions of this Executive Order, in the first three years of its implementation, there shall be special extraordinary capital allocations for the Judiciary to undertake capital development of State Judiciary Complexes, High Court Complexes, Sharia Court of Appeal, Customary Court of Appeal and Court Complexes of other Courts befitting the status of a court.”
The development the state governors however, rejected and demanded the immediate dissolution of the Presidential Implementation Committee and challenged the EO10 at the Supreme Court.