Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike says his state has declared that the Federal Government cannot dictate to him how to run Rivers State, since the country does not operate a unitary constitution.
He said that the Rivers State government would not enact a law for the financial autonomy of the judiciary as the 1999 constitution renders such law a nullity.
He explained that the 1999 constitution as amended already recognises the independence of the judiciary.
The Governor made this assertion at the dinner in honour of delegates to the 61st annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), currently ongoing in Port Harcourt.
He noted that since Nigeria does not practice a unitary system of government, it would be wrong for the Federal Government to issue directives to states on how they should run their affairs.
“Nobody can force me on how my State will operate. Nobody can say send this bill to the legislature for judiciary autonomy,” he declared.
The constitution has already guaranteed that the judiciary must be independent and we have agreed on that.
The Governor stated further; “Amendment had been done that the judiciary must be independent, and on first-line charge. If I’m not obeying that, there is a sanction for it”.
He explained that the state government had released all 2021 capital expenditure due to the judiciary since September challenging the Federal Government to prove it has done the same.
Wike urged the Federal Government to desist from playing to the gallery with the issue of financial autonomy for the judiciary.
According to him, a Federal Government with decrepit High Court buildings across the country cannot truly claim it fully supports financial autonomy for the judiciary.
“Are they giving the judiciary at the federal level the budget they are supposed to have in order to put the courts in order,” he asked.
He warned that the Rivers State government will resist any attempt by the Federal Government to deduct funds meant for the state under the guise of implementing financial autonomy for the judiciary.
The governor said the NBA could not continue to be docile while security agencies are used by the Federal Government to intimidate and harass judges warning; “when the judiciary is destroyed, the legal profession is gone.”
He also took a swipe at the past leadership of the NBA for not protesting against the closure of courts in Rivers State for almost two years by Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led administration.
He used the occasion to eulogise the Chairman of Council of Legal Education, Nigerian Law School, Emeka Ngige (SAN) for endorsing the establishment of the Port Harcourt campus of the Nigerian Law School.
The President, Nigerian Bar Association, Olumide Akpata, SAN, commended Governor Wike for his unflinching support for the judiciary and the Bar.
Akpata said Governor Wike’s conscientious support and defence of the judiciary is a pointer to his firm belief that the institution of State should be strengthened.
The NBA President stated that when Governor Wike leaves office, posterity will remember him as a man who fervently contributed his quota to nation-building.
Chairman, Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria in Rivers State, and former NBA President, Onueze C.J Okocha lauded Governor Wike for his numerous landmark achievements in office.
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