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States' Attorneys General Sue Malami Over Funding Of Courts

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN), has been dragged to the Supreme Court over an alleged failure by the government to fund the courts with recurrent expenditure since May 5, 2009.

President Muhammadu Buhari, in May 2020, signed Executive Order 10, giving financial autonomy to the legislature and judiciary at the state level.

The order pitted the president against the state governors, who said that the Federal Government should also fund state courts if the president must make such order.

The plaintiffs, who are the attorneys general of the 36 states, filed the suit against Malami at the weekend through their legal team led by Mr. Augustine Alegeh (SAN), claiming that the respondent refused to fund the court with capital and recurrent expenditure since May 5, 2009, but only paid the judicial workers' salaries.

The plaintiffs, who allege that the Executive Order 10 contains provisions which are inconsistent with some provisions of the 1999 Constitution, want the apex court to critically examine the order and declare it null and void.

In their statement of claim, the plaintiffs are also alleging that the respondent refused to fund the High Courts, Sharia Courts of Appeal, Customary Courts of Appeal of the plaintiffs' state, apart from paying only the salaries of the judicial officers, contrary to the provisions of the constitution.

The attorneys general said the respondent contravened section 6 of the Constitution of Nigeria, which establishes the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Federal High Court, National Industrial Court, High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, High Court of a state, the Sharia Courts of Appeal of a state, the Customary Court of Appeal of Federal Capital Territory and the Customary Court of Appeal of a state.

According to them, section 81(3) of the 1999 Constitution makes provision for the funding of the courts.

“That item 21(e) of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution provides that the National Judicial Council (NJC) is to collect from the defendant and disburse all capital and recurrent expenditure in respect of all the courts established under section 6 of the same constitution.

“That section 12(3) of the constitution makes provision for all capital and recurrent expenditures for court not established under section 6 of the constitution by the respective plaintiff's states,” they averred.

They are, therefore, praying the Supreme Court to compel the AGF to henceforth fund both capital and recurrent expenditures of the courts.