The Supreme Court has nullified the Executive Order 10. 2020, initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari to grant financial autonomy to the State Judiciary and Legislature.
The apex court in a split decision of 6 Justices to 1, held that the Executive Order 10 was inconsistent with the 1999 Constitution and therefore unconstitutional, illegal, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
In a judgment read by Justice Muhammed Dattijo, the 6 Justices agreed that the contentious Executive Order 10 violated the provisions of the 1999 Construction which clearly stipulates the functions and powers of heads of each arm of the government.
According to them, President Muhammad Buhari over- stepped his bounds with the Executive Order 10 and thereby engaged in breach of the constitution and usurpation of powers of heads of other arms of government.
However, 4 of the 7-man panel of Justices turned down the request of the 36 state governors for an order of the apex 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 Justices also refused to grant an order sought by the 36 state governors to compel the federal government to pay them N66 billion being an amount they claimed to have so far spent on capital projects for the 3 courts in their respective states.
With the majority decision, the state governments are to continue fundings of the three courts as they have been doing since 1999.
Attorney General of Abia State had on behalf of 35 others dragged the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, before the Supreme Court praying for an order to compel the federal government to take up fundings of capital projects for the three courts on the ground that they are the courts of the Federation and as such, the funding of their capital project should flow from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.
Their lead counsel, Chief Augustine Alegeh SAN, had argued that the salaries and emoluments of the judges of the three courts are being paid by the federal government in line with section 81 of the 1999 constitution and as such the section should be invoked to place the responsibility of funding their capital projects at the doorsteps of the federal government.
However, the AGF, represented by Tijani Gazali, SAN, had vehemently opposed the request of the states and had urged the apex court to dismiss it.
The AGF had predicated his argument on the fact that while the issue of salary and emoluments of the Judges of the courts are expressly stated in the 1999 constitution as the responsibility of the federal government, the section was silent on the capital project.
He had canvassed that since the states have been responsible for the funding of Capital Projects of the courts since 1999, the position should be maintained.
By Victoria Abah