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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Address presented by Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke During the 2021 Budget Defence of the Judiciary.



It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this Budget Defence exercise of the House Committee on Judiciary, which is part of its legislative responsibilities to ensure equitable allocation of funds in priority areas of budgetary line items for Courts and Judicial Bodies. This process intends to provide parameters that will guarantee judicious use of budgetary allocations for the overall benefits of the country on the administration of justice. 


The 2021 Appropriation Bill was presented by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, to the National Assembly on Tuesday, October 8, 2020, for consideration and passage in line with section 8 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended. The House deliberated extensively on the provisions of the Appropriation Bill and subsequently adjourned plenary for Committees to appraise the implementation/performance of the 2020 Appropriation Act and to provide opportunities for the defence of 2021 Budget Estimates by the Ministries Departments and Agencies under the jurisdiction of the Committees of the House. This legislative initiative underscores the importance the House attaches to its legislative agenda.

In view of the foregoing, the Committee requested for up-to-date reports on the implementation of the 2020 Budget from all the Courts and Judicial Bodies under its jurisdiction and thereafter scheduled this Budget Defence to enable the Committee conclude work within the given time frame that Standing Committees are expected to submit their reports to the Appropriation Committee to enhance smooth deliberations on the final breakdown of budgetary line items after the passage of the 2021 Appropriation Act.

The Committee is aware of the challenges of the Judiciary as exacerbated by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with security challenges, occasioned by prevailing restiveness that undoubtedly slowed down development in every aspect of our national lives. The recent security threats to Judges, denigration of the sanctity of courts and vandalisation of court infrastructure are few examples. These destructive acts are highly condemnable and calls for concerted action.

The House believes that the Judiciary is mindful of the challenges being globally experienced while attempts are being made by Courts and Judicial Bodies, through budgetary allocations, to ensure that adequate provisions are made in priority areas like the welfare and security of judicial officers, staff of the Judiciary and litigants, electro-fitting and automation of Courts Rooms in line with global best practices as well as provision of modern infrastructures in courts, which is sacrosanct for effective and efficient justice delivery and administration. 

The destruction of court by hoodlums that hijacked the EndSARS protest has once again brought to fore the exigency of automating our court system right from the filing process to judgement delivery. The incident has led to loss of some vital court documents in some courts, which will stall several lawsuits and trials. There is urgent need to implement electronic filing of court process, electronic recording and transcription of court proceedings, electronic collection of judgment and to have a central saver that backs up court processes and documents and synchronises data across all remote locations. This will generally expedite justice delivery and particularly forestall loss of court documents when there is any incident.

It is worrisome to note that the 2021 Budget Estimates for the Judiciary in the sum of One Hundred and Ten Billion Naira (N110,000,000,000.000) only, which represents Statutory Transfer to the Judiciary, is inadequate in view of current realities. The Committee will engage the leadership of the House, and indeed the National Assembly, for more funds for the Judiciary to address the observed and obvious challenges of the Judiciary for expedited and efficient dispensation of justice in the country. 

There is need for adequate funding of the Judiciary in order for it to independently carry out its constitutional mandate of checks and balances, settlement of disputes and protection of fundamental rights of citizens. The Committee under my leadership will continue to assiduously work at ensuring the independence of the Judiciary, quick and efficient dispensation of justice for both Nigerians and non-Nigerians while ensuring better welfare, security and working conditions for judicial officers and staff of the Judiciary.


In conclusion, the 9th Assembly and the House of Representatives under the able Leadership of Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila is fully committed to every legislative initiative that will guarantee effective and efficient justice delivery and respect for the rule of law in the country. The position of the House on the reforms of the Judiciary is well articulated in the House Legislative Agenda. I sincerely thank the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and the Leadership of the House for the confidence reposed in me as the Chairman, and my Deputy Hon. Dederi Haruna Isah, in steering the House Committee on Judiciary. I, on behalf of the Committee, will continue to pledge our unalloyed loyalty to the country and absolute support to the Speaker and the House Leadership. My appreciation also goes to my Honourable Colleagues for the immeasurable support I have enjoyed from them in the last one year since we were inaugurated as a Committee.

The Committee wishes to commend the President for the appointment of 8 Justices of the Supreme Court, thereby raising the number of justices to 20, which will help in fast-tracking administration and delivery of justice. The background and wealth of experience of the appointed justices is also commended while we appeal to the President to see the need to immediately fill the vacant positions in the Court of Appeal. 

Once again, on behalf of the Committee, you are welcome to this Budget Defense exercise.

I hereby call on the Secretary, National Judicial Council, to give the general overview of the 2021 Statutory Transfer to the Judiciary.

Thank you. 

Hon. Onofiok Akpan Luke

Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary

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