The governor of Benue State, Hyacinth Alia, has promised to implement financial autonomy for the state’s judicial arm.
Persistent demands by judicial workers for financial independence, especially at the state level in Nigeria had paralysed court businesses across the country.
However, Mr Alia, a Roman Catholic priest who became governor on 29 May on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), says: “…the state will get financial autonomy in line with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Benue State Judiciary Fund Management (Financial Autonomy) Law, 2021.”
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Kula Tersoo, in a statement on Saturday, said Mr Alia made the pledge at the 2023/2024 Benue State Judiciary Legal year celebration in Makurdi, on Saturday.
Mr Alia’s predecessor, Samuel Ortom’s administration in June 2021, locked horns with the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) Benue State chapter, over controversial claim by the the state that the judiciary was on a first-line charge.
Mr Alia on Saturday emphasised the imperative of financial independence for judicial officers in enabling “the judges to apply the law without fear or favour but with respect to the fundamental human rights of the citizenry.”
He said an investment friendly environment in Benue could only be guaranteed if the courts are able to adjudicate on business cases within reasonable time, a problem plaguing Nigeria’s judiciary.
“Situations where judges of the lower courts in Benue State travel by public transportation including commercial motorcycles… is an enormous risk and poses grave dangers to the lives of the judges and their work,” Mr Alia said.
Promising to improve the welfare of judicial officers, the governor directed the state’s Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice and Public Order, Fidelis Mnyim, to liaise with the Chief Judge, Maurice Ikpambese, on modalities to actualise the goal.
The governor urged the judges “to strive towards ensuring speedy dispensation of justice in this new legal year.”
Earlier in their separate remarks, Mr Ikpambese, and Mr Mnyim, underscored the judiciary’s role in “strengthening the electoral process in Nigeria.”
The event was attended by top members of the executive branch.
On 6 April 2021, JUSUN embarked on a nationwide strike to press for the implementation of constitutional provision placing the judiciary on first-line charge in the budgets of the various states.
A series of meetings with federal and state government officials and an agreement signed with the state governors, the union, led to a suspension of the strike.
In its communique announcing the suspension of the strike 64-day that crippled courts nationwide, JUSUN accused four states, including Benue, Plateau, Kaduna and Bayelsa, of allegedly withholding or deducting the salaries of judiciary workers.
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