Worried by the failure by the State Government to respond to the demand for financial autonomy for the judiciary, for which members of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, JUSUN, in Delta state have joined their counterparts nationwide on a strike, the Forum of Branch Chairmen of the Nigerian Bar Associatiion, NBA, Delta State, on Monday joined the striking workers on a protest march through the streets of Asaba to Governnent House to press for the implementation of the autonomy.
The State chapter of the Parliamentary Staff Associatiion of Nigeria, PASAN, which is also asking for financial autonomy for the State Legislature, joined the protest.
At the Governnent House gate, the State Chairman of the Forum of Branch Chairmen of the Nigerian Bar Associatiion and Chairman Warri branch, Chief Emmanuel Uti, said section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which guaranteed financial autonomy for the judiciary, was not negotiable.
Chief Uti said financial autonomy for the judiciary meant independence of the judiciary, which he described as a global best practice, stressing that section 121(3) of the Nigerian Constitution (as amended) required that any fund standing to the credit of the judiciary at the federal and state levels should be paid directly to the Heads of the Courts.
He said a situation where the Courts and Judges had to depend on the Executive arm of government for funds negated the principle of Separation of Power and was a major impedement to the administration of justice, adding that Courts and judicial officers in the state would be in for a better deal with financial autonomy for the judiciary.
The Chairman, Delta Forum of Branch Chairmen of NBA said the body was solidly in support of JUSUN’s demand for financial autonomy and warned that the Forum would block the Governnent House gate if the demand was not met by next week.
Chief Uti urged the Delta State House of Assembly to initiate action towards enacting the necessary legislations to give effect to financial autonomy for the state judiciary.
Addressing the protesters, the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr. Peter Mrakpor (SAN), who spoke on behalf of the state government, thanked them for their peaceful conduct, assuring that the State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, was favourably disposed to granting their request.
Mrakpor said the role of the judiciary was key to the success of democracy in any part of the world, insisting that the demand for financial autonomy for the judiciary by JUSUN, supported by the Nigerian Bar Associatiion, was constitutional and obviously not negotiable.