Should Judges Reject Car Gift from Governors?


A few days back there was news with photo of latest model Range Rover SUV vehicles on display to be handed over to Milord judges of Rivers State Judiciary. This gift whether Greek or not is not uncommon in this clime, in fact it is the practice in most States if not all the States across the federation.

Nigeria practices Presidential system of government with clear separation of powers among the 3 arms of govt – Executive, Legislature & Judiciary.

There 3 arms of govt are expected to act as check over each other by virtue of their roles clearly defined. However, in practice here in Nigeria despite constitutional provisions you see deliberate overlapping and usurpation of function/duties and cross-usurpation of function and duties to the detriment of the growth and deepening of democracy in Nigeria.

When Ministers are confirmed and assigned portfolios their tools of operation one of which is pool of vehicles are made available seamlessly without any protocol or fanfare as it is in their Executive budget. Same thing goes for the Legislature, they decide the choicest model and quantity and place order for same while distribution is done by and within them, no fanfare, no protocol from the Executive or Judiciary, you only get to know about from ‘nosy’ reporters who want us to know how our Legislators are living large.

Enters the Judiciary and there the story is different. Court houses are budgeted for and executed with little or no input from the Judiciary, budgetary allocation to the Judiciary is at the mercy and mood of the Governor, tools of the Judiciary which necessities are made larger than life and presented to the Judiciary as if the Judiciary is being done a favour. It’s has become common practice for CJs of States to go cap in hand, begging for what will make the Judiciary play its role in the triangular system of Presidential system.

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Now the Governor Wike a Lawyer himself have now bought Range Rover SUV for Milords to come to the King’s table and collect. What are these cars for? Are they purchased directly from the Judiciary’s allocation from the consolidated purse? Were Milords consulted on their needs and durability of the range rover brand of car? Were Milords expected to accept these as a gift or as part of the Judiciary budget? Are Milords expecting that there is no or there will be no catch to this gift? Is the car gift part of a better working environment and independence of the Judiciary that the constitution anticipated and provided for?

The Judiciary has series of challenges which every year at Judiciary New Legal Year Services you hear CJ reeling out challenges over challenges, is the cars so provided one of such challenges facing Milords of Rivers State Judiciary? In an era of new normal where Judiciaries globally and going virtual has the Rivers State Judiciary upgraded its judiciary to meet up with that challenge? Governor Wike as Lawyer should know better Governor Okowa a medical Doctor what the Judiciary needs to function effectively as the hope of common man where the Executive and Legislature fail him. How will Governor Wike be remembered by members of his professional constituency after his tenure as Governor of Rivers State under whose tenure Covid-19 reigned terror on mankind?

While Milords Justices & Judges cannot speak out unlike the Executive & Legislature, it is expected that NBA will be the voice of the Judiciary at times like this. Even President Buhari who is not a Lawyer but a military background understands the situation more than the Lawyers occupying positions Like Governor Wike when he signed an Executive Order directing the Judiciary to receive its funds direct rather the practice of their funds going through the State Govt purse. Is this gift by Governor Wike and his co-traveler Governors in line with this Executive Order or outright breach?

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If Milords cannot muster the courage to speak out, I hope NBA will do the needful to protect the last hope of the common man, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba SAN had already made it easy by securing a judgment in 2014 in a judgment delivered by Justice Ahmed Mohammed, directing that henceforth, funds belonging to the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund should be released to the National Judicial Council, NJC, in full, for disbursement for the needs of the various courts across the federation.

The Judiciary arm receiving gift from any of the order arms of govt portend grave danger for democracy and separation of powers as most gifts in this part of the world as these gifts are truly never gifts, if at all, they are Greek gifts as greek gift have been rightly described as a gift given with the intention of tricking and causing harm to the recipient, this time the harm goes beyond the recipient.

Written by Philip Njetene


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