Almost two years ago, on 8th June, 2018, I was elated when President Buhari signed into law the 1999 Constitution 4th Alteration Act, which amongst other things granted financial autonomy to the Judiciary at State level. By this Constitutional amendment funds due to the Judiciary are now to be paid directly to the heads of the State Judiciary, no more through the Governors.
The Constitutional amendment became necessary after several concerns were raised about State Governors allegedly depriving the Judiciary of much needed funds to improve the justice delivery system. It would seem that the non compliance with the Constitutional provisions on financial autonomy for the Judiciary in various States of the federation necessitated the proclamation of Executive Order 10 by President Buhari on 20th May, 2020. By the Executive Order, the President authorized the Accountant General of the federation to deduct from allocation to any State in the federation account if such State fails to release funds meant for the State Judiciary as guaranteed by the Constitution.
Executive Order 10 and the 1999 Constitution 4th Alteration Act have established a launchpad for judicial reforms at State level. It is now expected that the heads of various courts will have timely access to funds required to provide necessary court infrastructure to aid justice delivery.
It now behoves on the heads of state courts to properly allocate resources for capital projects. Our courts are in dire need of technology infrastructure to speed up justice delivery. The Chief Judges should prioritize the deployment of verbatim recorders and digitize the court registries. We need to, as a matter of urgency, begin to discard the manual, burdensome and slow approach of recording proceedings in long hand. The case filing and scheduling systems can also be significantly improved by adopting technology solutions. We are in the 21st century and our court registries should begin to reflect the realities of the 21st century.
Elo Adhekpukoli is a member of the NBA Lagos Branch Law Reform Committee
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