The Supreme Court has reserved judgment in the N66 billion suit initiated by the 36 states against the Federal Government, bordering on the funding of capital and recurrent expenditure of courts of record in states of the federation.
In the suit marked: SC/CV/655/2020 and dated September 16, 2020, the federating states are specifically seeking an order of the apex court compelling the federal government to take up the funding of High Courts, Sharia Courts of Appeal and Customary Courts of Appeal.
The States are asking for the refund of N66 billion they claimed the 36 states expended in the maintenance of the courts in their respective states.
They are also asking the apex court for another order setting aside the Presidential Executive Order 10, on the grounds that the same was in violation of the express provisions of the constitution.
Meanwhile, the apex court reserved judgment after taking submissions of parties for and against the suit as well as from five amicus curiea invited by the court to speak on the matter.
Justice Datijo announced that judgment of the panel has been reserved to a date that would be communicated to parties in the matter.
Before judgment was reserved, the five amicus curiea (lawyers invited as friends of the court) invited by the court over the issue gave different opinions on the issue.
While three of them took side with the 36 states, to the effect that the federal government should be responsible for the funding of capital expenditure for the three courts since they are establishments of the federal government, the other two aligned themselves with the federal government, stressing that while the federal government should be responsible for federal courts, state governments should be responsible for courts within their individual states.
Those that supported the plaintiffs’ case were Adegboyega Awolomo (SAN), Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) and Sebastian Hon (SAN).
But Agbakoba, however, disagreed with the plaintiffs on the issue of refund, stating that nobody, in the first place, asked them to assume responsibility for capital expenditure of the three courts.
The two amicus curiea, who spoke in favour of the federal government were: Mahmood Magaji (SAN) and Musibawu Adetunbi (SAN).
It was their submission that the constitution was clear as to the responsibility of the federal government in respect of the three courts, adding that the apex court should not be tempted to disrupt the system.
However, Adetunbi was in agreement with the plaintiffs on the issue of Executive Order 10, which he said should be set aside for being unconstitutional.
The 36 states’ Attorneys General and Commissioners for Justice had last year dragged the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to the apex court over the refusal or failure of the federal government to fund courts of the federation.
After listening to all the parties, Justice Datijo announced that judgment of the panel has been reserved to a date that would be communicated to parties in the matter.
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