The National Judiciary Council (NJC) has criticised the nation’s annual budgetary process for the judiciary, saying that allocation to the council in 2021 is low.
NJC said a situation where one agency would decide what others should get without the knowledge of its working environment was not in line with best global practices.
Mr Ahmed Saleh, the Executive Secretary of NJC, said this when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary on Monday in Abuja
He, however, appealed for a paradigm shift in the judiciary budgeting regime, adding that there was an urgent need for increased funding for the judiciary.
Saleh said that a total of N187,945,531,476 was initially proposal for the 2021 budget operations, but was reviewed to N110 billion considering the ceiling that was given to it by the budget office.
He said that a total of N110 billion was appropriated for the judiciary in 2020, adding that about 75 per cent of the budget was accessed and implemented.
Saleh said that the Nigeria judiciary was in dire need of funding, adding that the recent vandalism of some courts occasioned by the #EndSARS protests made it more imperative for increased funding.
He said that the Supreme Court justices were recently increased by eight, making a total of 20, stressing that there was a promise of a special intervention fund to enable it to function but had yet to be received.
He added that the Federal High Court was also in the process of increasing the number of judges and that such exercise would come with cost on personnel and capital expenditure.
According to him, without increase in funding, this will not be possible, the challenges of COVID-19 have also shown us that we should leverage on electronics court system.
Onofiok Luke, the chairman of the committee, said there was need for extra budgetary allocation for the judiciary.
“If eight justices have been added, I don’t know why there won’t be increase of allocation now that the number of justices has been increased,” he said.
He said that the committee was aware of the challenges faced in the judiciary coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic and insecurity as witnessed by the vandalism of courts by hoodlums in the wake of EndSARS protests.
He said that there had been attempt by the committee to ensure the welfare and security of judicial officers, adding that provision of modern infrastructure for efficient delivery of justice was imperative.
According to him, the destruction of courts by hoodlums brings to bear the need for the digitalisation of courts through recordings and delivery of judgments by the courts.
He said that N110 billion budget proposal, in view of current reality for the judiciary, was inadequate, adding that there was need for adequate funding of the judiciary for effective service delivery.
Luke said that the House of Reps was committed to ensuring that the rule of law prevailed in the country, while commending President Muhammadu Buhari for approving additional eight justices of the Supreme Court.
He, however, appealed to the President to ensure that the current vacant positions at the Appeal court were filled without further delay.