The submission of the judicial budget to the executive has been declared unconstitutional by the court
A court in Delta State, Nigeria has ruled that it is unconstitutional for the state's judiciary to submit its yearly budget to the executive arm for approval before being included in the Appropriation Bill. The ruling was made by Justice G.B Briki-Okolosi of the Delta State High Court, Asaba, who stated that the practice, which has been in place since 1999, is an aberration and goes against the principle of separation of powers.
John Aikpokpo-Martins and Olukunle Ogheneovo Edun are the applicants in a legal case, with the defendants including the governor of Delta State, the Delta State House of Assembly, the Chief Judge of Delta State, the Delta State Judicial Service Commission, the Accountant-General of Delta State, and the President of the Customary Court of Appeal, Delta State. The case revolves around the interpretation and appropriate consequences of sections 120 (4), 121(2) & (3), and 124 (4) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, which were altered by the Fourth Alteration, No. 4 Act No. 7 of 2017.
The lawsuit challenges the current budgeting practice, which has a bias towards insufficient allocation of funds for the judiciary, as well as the way in which the appropriated funds are released. The applicants in the case, John Aikpokpo-Martins and Olukunle Ogheneovo Edun, sought several declarations, including one that the budget and/or expenditure estimates of the 4th, 5th, and6th defendants, which includes the judiciary in Delta State, are automatically charged to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of Delta State upon being passed by the second defendant, by virtue of the joint reading of Sections 120(4),121(2), 121(3) & 124(4) of the 1999 Constitution. They argued that neither the 1st nor the 5th defendants nor any of their agents, subordinates, or agencies have the power or authority to interfere with the funds or impose any conditions for their release to the 3rd and 6th defendants.
The court in resolving the case held that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 is deemed sacrosanct, this court possesses inherent authority to curb the evident unconstitutional trend that has been entrenched over the years, specifically since 1999. The Court held further that the long-standing practice in Delta State of compelling the judiciary to submit its budget proposals for review and inclusion in the Executive Appropriation Bill by the executive branch is unconstitutional.
The ruling grants all the reliefs sought by the applicants with some amendments. The case brings to the fore the need for financial autonomy for the third arm of government, the judiciary, and how it should be implemented in Delta State. The ruling is believed to be a step towards positioning the state's judiciary among the best in Nigeria.