OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary has said the proposed N110 billion allocation for the judiciary in the 2021 proposed budget is not enough to cater for the arm of government.

The committee however commended President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Judicial Council (NJC) for appointing additional 8 supreme court justices who were sworn into office recently.

The committee accordingly resolved to engage the leadership of the House to push for additional funding for the judiciary, according to its chairman, Luke Onofiok (PDP, Akwa Ibom) who spoke on Tuesday.

“It is worrisome to note that the 2021 Budget Estimates for the Judiciary in the sum of One Hundred and Ten Billion Naira (N110,000,000,000.000) only, which represents Statutory Transfer to the Judiciary, is inadequate in view of current realities,” he said, adding:

“The Committee will engage the Leadership of the House, and indeed the National Assembly for more funds for the Judiciary to address the observed and obvious challenges of the judiciary for expedited and efficient dispensation of justice in the country.

“There is need for adequate funding of the Judiciary in order for it to independently carry out its constitutional mandate of check 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 chair laid emphasis on the welfare and protection of judicial officers whom he said were exposed to all manners of security risks due to the peculiar nature of their job.

“The House believes that the Judiciary is mindful of the challenges being globally experienced while attempts are being made by Courts and Judicial Bodies, through budgetary allocations, to ensure that adequate provisions are made in priority areas like the welfare and security of Judicial officers, Staff of the Judiciary and litigants, electro-fitting and automation of Courts Rooms in line with global best practices as well as provision of modern infrastructures in courts which is sacrosanct for effective and efficient justice delivery and administration,” Onofiok said further.

He also spoke on the destruction of destruction of courts by hoodlums that “hijacked the EndSARS protest,” a matter, he said “has once 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 and having a central saver that backs up court processes and documents and synchronise data across all remote locations. This will expedite justice delivery and forestall loss of court documents.”

On the appointment of additional supreme court justices, he said: “The Committee wishes to commend the President for the appointment of 8 Justices of the Supreme Court, thereby raising the number of justices to 20, which will help in fast-tracking administration and delivery of justice. The background and wealth of experience of the appointed Justices is also commended while we appeal to the President to see the need to immediately fill the vacant positions in the Court of Appeal.”

On his part, the Executive Secretary of the NJC, Mr. Ahmed Gambo Saleh, raised concerns over the envelop budgetary system for the judiciary as he said “as long as other people continue to decide the budget of judiciary we would not make any meaningful progress. I wish to appeal for a paradigm shift in our budgetary process.

He continued: “In view of the challenges facing the Nigeria Judiciary, we there for appeal for more funds. We were promised a special intervention yet it has not been fulfilled.

The challenges caused by Covid-19 has forced the judiciary to go digital and we would need more funds in that regards”, the executive secretary appealed.

Consequently, the NJC had initially proposed a budget estimate of N187 billion for the year 2021 but the sum of N110 billion was allocated for them.

Recall that the National Assembly has also said the N125 billion allocated to it the budget is insufficient and asked for more money in 2021.

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