The House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary, yesterday, said the annual budgetary allocation of N110 billion to the federal judiciary was grossly inadequate in the dispensation of justice.
It also said there was an urgent need to implement the electronic filing of court processes and automation of the courts, and lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for the appointment of eight additional justices of the Supreme Court.
Chairman of the committee, Onofiok Luke, who made the observations during the budget defence of National Judicial Council, NJC, the Supreme Court and other lower courts in the country said: “It is worrisome to note that the 2021 budget estimates for the judiciary in the sum of N110 billion only, which represents statutory transfer to the Judiciary, is inadequate in view of current realities.
‘’The committee will engage the leadership of the House, and, indeed, the National Assembly for more funds for the judiciary to address observed and obvious challenges of the judiciary for expedited and efficient dispensation of justice in the country.
“The committee is aware of the challenges of the judiciary, as exacerbated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with security challenges, occasioned by prevailing restiveness that undoubtedly slow down development in every aspect of our national lives. ‘
’The recent security threats to judges, denigration of the sanctity of courts and vandalism of court infrastructure are a few examples. These destructive acts are highly condemnable and call for concerted action.
“The destruction of court by hoodlums that hijacked the #EndSARS protest has again brought to fore the exigency of automating our court system, right from the filing process to judgement delivery. ‘’
The incident has led to loss of some vital court documents in some courts, which will stall several lawsuits and trials. There is urgent need to implement electronic filing of court process, electronic recording and transcription of court proceedings and electronic collection of judgment.
“There is need for adequate funding of the Judiciary in order for it to independently carry out its constitutional mandate of checks and balances, settlement of disputes and protection of fundamental rights of citizens.
‘’The committee under my leadership, will continue to assiduously work at ensuring the independence of judiciary, quick and efficient dispensation of justice for Nigerians, while ensuring better welfare, security and working conditions for judicial officers and staff of the judiciary.
“The committee wishes to commend the President for the appointment of eight Justices of the Supreme Court, thereby raising the number of justices to 20, which will help in fast-tracking justice delivery.”
‘’The background and wealth of experience of the appointed Justices are also commended, while we appeal to the President to see the need to immediately fill the vacant positions in the Court of Appeal.”
Making his presentation, the Secretary, National Judicial Council, NJC, Gambo Saleh, appealed for increased envelope, saying the Council was constrained to reduce the initial budgetary proposal of N188 billion to N110 billion allocation.
He said: “I want to thank President Muhammadu Buhari for the sustained funding of the judiciary. The Chief Justice and chairman of National Judicial Council wish to give their profound appreciation to the President and National Assembly for the 2020 Appropriation.
“While we appreciate the sustained funding of the judiciary by the government, but permit me to reecho the position of the chairman on the need for increased funding to the Nigerian judiciary. We are all living witnesses to current situation in the country.
In view of this, I want to reiterate the same position that the Nigerian Judiciary is, indeed, in dire need of increased funding. ‘’At the instance of the Executive and coupled with public outcry for a fast, efficient judicial system, the Supreme Court of Nigeria was made to increase the compliment of that court to twenty, including the Chief Justice.
We were promised a special intervention and that intervention is yet to come. ‘’As a response to these yearnings, the Court of Appeal also had to establish four additional divisions, not only that they are also in the process of appointing additional two justices of the Court of Appeal.
The Federal High Court, the National Industrial Court are also in the process of appointing 20 additional.