Frontline energy lawyer and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), Professor Damilola Olawuyi, SAN, has called for an urgent increase in the budgetary allocation for the judiciary as a prerequisite for advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria made this call at the 11th Annual Aare Afe Babalola Lecture organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (Ado Ekiti Branch) where he was the keynote speaker.
Themed “Judicial Independence: A Recipe for Democracy in Nigeria,” the annual lecture celebrates Afe Babalola’s monumental contributions to the development of legal jurisprudence and the Nigerian society in general.
Citing a wide range of United Nations and African Union instruments, Olawuyi, who is also co-chairman of the Legal Education Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), noted that international law recognizes a duty of every country to “provide adequate resources to enable the judiciary to properly perform its functions.”
Olawuyi lamented that the average budget allocated to the judiciary in Nigeria has remained one of the lowest in the world for the last 10 years.
He noted that “while in many parts of Europe, the average budgetary allocation ranges from about 5-10 percent of national budgets, allocation to the judiciary in Nigeria has dropped drastically from 2.2% in 2011 to 0.84% in 2021.
“While the volume of cases heard by our courts, as well as the number of judges appointed, have increased geometrically, it remains incomprehensible why the level of funding has decreased significantly over the last several years.
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“The end result is the decayed, age-worn, and deplorable state of court rooms across Nigeria, with little or no access to modern technologies needed for the conduct of legal business.”
He also deplored the unattractive remuneration and benefits for judges which he argued has significantly reduced the prestige, autonomy, and independence of the judiciary.
Olawuyi therefore called on governments at all levels to urgently increase the funding, salaries, technology access, and working conditions of the judiciary in order to advance SDG 16 on justice delivery in Nigeria.
According to him, “there is also the need for capacity development of judges through exposure to foreign best practices, developmental trainings, and seminars, especially in niche areas of law such as energy, environment, climate change, and technology law amongst others.
“As co-chairman of the NBA Legal Education Committee, we are working tirelessly with NBA branches, the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), and other key stakeholders to provide the judiciary with training and education opportunities, both home and abroad, that will help to hone vital judicial and technology skills needed for the effective administration of justice in Nigeria.”
While commending the honoree, Olawuyi noted that “through many years of labor, research, and experience, Aare Afe Babalola SAN has remained the most trustworthy evidence and source of what the law really is, when it comes to constitutional law and transformational good governance in Nigeria.
“Like him, loathe him, praise him, or disagree with him, but you can never ignore the indispensable prescriptions and wise counsel of Aare Afe Babalola, SAN.”
Olawuyi therefore called on young lawyers to emulate the selfless dedication and commitment of the legal luminary to constitutional development and transformational governance in Nigeria.