The Supreme Court of Nigeria on Monday in Abuja reserved judgment in a suit filed by the 36 states governors seeking order of the apex court to compel the federal government to take up funding of capital projects for state High Courts, Sharia Court of Appeal and Customary Court of Appeal.
The governors in the suit also applied for an order of the apex court to compel the federal government to pay them N66 billion being an amount they have so far spent on capital projects for the 3 courts in their respective suits.
The panel of seven justices led by Justice Muhammad Dattijo was told that the three courts are the courts of the federation and as such the funding of their capital project should flow from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.
Counsel to the state governors, Chief Augustine Alegeh SAN, argued that the salaries and monuments of the judges of the three courts are being paid by the federal government in line with section 81 of the 1999 constitution and as such the section should be invoked to place the responsibility of funding thier capital projects at the door steps of the federal government.
However, the Attorney General of the Federation AGF represented by Tijani Gazali SAN vehemently opposed the request of the states and urged the apex court to dismiss the request of the plaintiffs
The AGF predicated his argument on the fact that while the issue of salary and monuments are expressly stated in the 1999 constitution as the responsibility of the federal government, the section was silent on the capital project.
Gazali stated that since the states have been responsible for the funding of Capital Projects for the courts since 1999, the position should be maintained.
He urged the Justices to dismiss the suit and award substantial costs against the states.
In the bid to resolve the constitutional logjam, the Chief Justice of Nigeria CJN Honourable Justice Ibrahim Tanko invited five Senior Advocates of Nigeria as Amici Curies (friends of court) for their input in resolving the matter.
However, three out of the five SANs Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, Olisa Agbakoba and Chief Sebastine Hon threw their weight behind the request of the 36 governors.
In their separate submissions, they argued that the federal government should be responsible for the funding of capital project for the 3 courts, since they are courts established for the federation.
Two other senior lawyers, Mahmud Magaji SAN and Musibawu Adetumbi SAN expressed dissenting views on the contentious issue.
They aligned themselves with the AGF that capital projects for the 3 courts should be funded by the states and not the federal government.
In his submission, one of the amici curiae, Mr. Musibau Adetunbi (SAN) was of the view that the Constitution has sufficiently provided the manner the FG and states should fund their courts.
“My position is that part of the load that the Constitution wants the Federal Government to carry is narrowed down in Section 84(7) while Section 121 also narrows down the load it wants the state governments to carry,” Mr. Adetunbi said.
He faulted Executive Order 10 and prayed the court to grant only relief 9 and dismiss reliefs 1 to 8.
After taking arguments for the senior lawyers, Justice Muhammad Dattijo announced that judgment has been reserved and that parties will be communicated as soon as judgment is ready.