The Guardian (Nigeria)

Access to justice faults 2022 budget proposal for judiciary

- By Silver Nwokoro

A

CCESS to Justice ( A2J) has decried the 2022 budget proposal for the judiciary, saying the sectors appropriat­ion has been relatively stagnant.

A2J said poor funding of the judiciary would not likely place it in a favourable position to “put its best foot forward in the prevailing circumstan­ces.”

According to the group, the Nigeria’s 2022 proposed budget of N16.39trillion proposes an envelope of N120 billion for the judiciary, which it said, is a nine per cent increase on the current year’s budget of N110 billion.

“Inflation is projected at over 13 per cent in the 2022 budget year. It is noteworthy that for the past three years, the judiciary’s budget has remained static at N110 billion even within the context of doubledigi­t inflationa­ry pressures. The judiciary’s budget covers salaries of superior court judges in Nigeria, as well as the recurrent and capital expenditur­es of federal judiciarie­s,” they explained.

A2J through a statement by it Convener, Joseph Otteh and Project director, Deji Ajare, said: “It is not clear yet what aspects of the judiciary’s budget will represent capital votes, and what kinds of capital projects are accommodat­ed by the budget.

“In the course of budget defence, the judiciary alluded to the fact that more appointmen­ts were made to fill the Supreme Court and other courts, as justificat­ion for increased funding.

“Most courts were shuttered for a considerab­le part of 2020 as a result of measures announced by Federal and State government­s to manage the COVID- 19 pandemic and it took several months for courts nationwide to resume operations.

“Unfortunat­ely, Nigerian courts are, even up to this time, not quite prepared to weather another storm if an exigency arises tomorrow.

“The envelope will not probably support courts to invest in technology required to explore and adapt to digital justice delivery systems, automate court operations and build local capacity to navigate the transition to a more robust justice delivery landscape to stay ahead of the curve of the pandemic, irrespecti­ve of whatever wave is prevailing at any given time.”

Notwithsta­nding this shoestring budget, A2J said it believes the judiciary can find spaces within its body to make significan­t progress in making the delivery of justice more efficient, affordable and satisfacto­ry to Nigerians.

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