Independence of the Judiciary: Olumide Babalola Drags Buhari, RMAFC, NJC to Court

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A Lagos based legal practitioner and public interest litigator, Mr. Olumide Babalola has filed a  Fundamental Rights Enforcement action seeking reliefs bothering on the independence of the judiciary and violation of section 36(1) of the Constitution against the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and three others.

The suit with No. FHC/L/CS/1349/2019 was filed at the Federal High Court Abuja, on Wednesday, 6th November, 2019 and is seeking various declaratory reliefs against the Respondents.

Some of the reliefs sought by the Applicant are:

A DECLARATION that the 1st Respondent’s appointment of the Chairman and Members of the 2nd Respondent interferes and likely to further interfere with the Applicant’s right to fair hearing as it relates to the independence and impartiality of the courts and tribunals in Nigeria guaranteed under section 36(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As amended) (The Constitution).

A DECLARATION that section 2 of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act, LFN 2010 violates and is inconsistent with the provision of section 36(1) of the Constitution in relation to independence and impartiality of the courts and tribunals in Nigeria and thereby unconstitutional, null and void.

A DECLARATION that by virtue of section 158(1) of the Constitution on the 2nd Respondent’s independence, its membership ought to be constituted by appointees of the executive, legislature and judiciary.

A DECLARATION that by virtue of section 36(1) of the Constitution on independence and impartiality of the courts and tribunals, salaries and allowances of the judges should be determined by the 2nd Respondent but subject to the advice of the National Judicial Commission.

A DECLARATION that by virtue of section 36(1) of the Constitution on independence and impartiality of the courts and tribunals, salaries and allowances of the judges should be determined by the 2nd Respondent but subject to the advice of the National Judicial Commission.

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A DECLARATION that by virtue of section 84(7) of the Constitution, the salaries and allowances of judicial officers, being a recurrent expenditure, ought to be upwardly reviewed bi-annually.

In his affidavit, the Applicant alleged that, section 36 of the constitution  provides for independence and impartiality of courts but by the President’s appointment of members of the RMAFC, the courts and tribunals cannot be independent. He also deposed to the fact that the President’s appointment of members of the RMAFC to determine salaries and allowances of  judicial officers has in the past interfered and would likely further interfere with the independence and impartiality of the courts and tribunals.

It is also the Applicant’s deposition that the President’s appointment of persons who determine the judges’ salary is likely to interfere with his right to fair hearing in the courts as their independence and impartiality cannot be guaranteed by reason of the fact that their salaries and allowances are fixed by persons appointed by the President.

The Respondents to the suit are the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, The Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, the National Judicial Council and the National Assembly.

The suit has not been assigned to a judge .

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