The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has faulted Federal Government for approving Presidential Executive Order No. 00-10, pushing its responsibility of funding both the capital and recurrent expenditures of the state high courts, Sharia Court of Appeal, and the Customary Court of Appeal, to state governments.
Wike said that the executive order signed by President Muhammadu Buhari was illegal and that the president was ill-advised by his aides particularly the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.
Aside from the fact that the decision to dissipate state funds on behalf of judiciaries, under order 10, was an aberration, the governor cautioned against the implementation of the policy, stressing that its enforcement would cause more problems and hamper judiciary independence.
Wike stated these during a special court session organised to mark the opening of 2020/2021 legal year of the Rivers state judiciary in Port Harcourt on Friday.
He argued that the action of the Federal Government constitutes yet, another clear breach of the constitutional powers of the Governors to manage State resources in a federal system. According to him, the Federal Government cannot legitimately claim to be more interested in the progress of State judiciaries than the Governors of the respective States; particularly, Rivers State.
The governor stated that independence of the judiciary was 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).
Wike, said while the issue of inadequate funding for the judiciary has been a recurrent challenge preventing the judiciary across the nation from enjoying practical autonomy and efficiency, the situation in Rivers State under his administration has been different.
The Governor, however, took a swipe at the chairman of Nigerian Bar Association Port Harcourt branch, Prince Nyekwere, for alleging that some persons were extrajudicially killed by the military, in the aftermath of Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) killing of six soldiers, four policemen, and destruction of all police stations and Court buildings in Oyigbo.
He wondered why the NBA, which 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), would without evidence allege extrajudicial killings in Oyigbo.
The Governor lauded the Chief Judge, Hon. Justice Adama Iyaye Lamikanra for her illustrious service and commitment to the progress of the judiciary in the State.
He stated that people had opposed her elevation as the Chief Judge based on her status as a non-indigene. But, noted that fortunately, she has 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, the Chief Judge, Justice Adama Iyaye Lamikanra, lauded Governor Wike, for providing the State judiciary the needed funds to ensure people have 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, will 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 rededication church service held at St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral Church, Port Harcourt where the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike took the first lesson, while the second lesson was taken by Chief Judge of the State, Justice Adama Iyaye -Lamikanra.
In his sermon, the Archbishop of Port Harcourt Methodist Church of Nigeria, Most Reverend Sunday Agwu admonished 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 to 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.
The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike was accompanied by his wife, Justice Suzzette Nyesom-Wike, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Senator Sam Anyanwu, and several other dignitaries.