The Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters has advised President Muhammadu Buhari and his appointees saddled with nomination of individuals for federal appointments to take cognisance of the federal character principle.
Senator representing Ekiti Central and Chairman of the Committee, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele gave the admonition on Monday during the screening of Honourable Justice Salisu Garba Abdullahi as Chief Judge designate of the Federal Capital Territory.
Senator Bamidele maintained that apart from meeting eligibility criteria stipulated for the relevant public offices into which they are being appointed, adequate care must also be taken to ensure that the federal character principle established by virtue of the clear provision of Section 14, Sub-section (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, be met by nominees.
He warned that observing the federal character principle in the breach was a potential threat to peace and unity amongst the federating states in the country.
He said: “The Committee of the Senate that is in charge of Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, we will like to appeal on behalf of the leadership and our distinguished colleagues in parliament, to urge all the stakeholders who participate in the process of executive and judicial appointments in this country, especially individuals and bodies saddled with the responsibility of making recommendations to the President and Commander-in-Chief of our dear country, to ensure compliance with both the eligibility criteria, as well as the federal character principle, established in our constitution in order to avoid unnecessarily heating up the polity and eroding the unity and strength of our country and in the process, weakening the foundation of our country as well as the hope of its federating units.
“We have an extremely bright and exciting future in one indivisible and indissoluble nation that is propelled by unity in diversity and all hands must be on deck to ensure this aspiration is guided jealously.
“This shall remain our guiding principle in the 9th Senate under Senator Ahmad Lawan watch as we continue to guard jealously the spirit and letters of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which we all swore to protect in the overriding public and national interests.
“Finally, the need for merit and compliance in the consideration of citizens for appointment, including the ones that will come before the Senate for confirmation, must be re-emphasised for the record.
“In addition to ensuring that potential appointees meet the eligibility criteria stipulated for the relevant public offices into which they are being appointed, adequate care must also be taken to ensure that the federal character principle established by virtue of the clear provision of Section 14, Sub-section (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
On the ongoing agitation for fiscal autonomy for state judiciary, Senator Bamidele restated his call on the governors not to pay lip service to separation of powers.
“We are not unaware of the challenges the Judiciary has been confronted with, in recent time, especially, the issue of inadequate funding and the current nationwide strike, which has shut down judicial activities in many parts of the country.
“While we acknowledge the position of the state governors to commence the implementation of the provision of Section 121, Subsection (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as altered) with effect from May 21, 2021, it is our hope that all the other issues would be addressed, as soon as possible, so as to pave way for judicial activities to thrive in the overall interest of the nation. As we said earlier in this Committee, the fiscal autonomy of both the judiciary and the legislature at the state level, as it is at the federal level, is non-negotiable.
“This is by ensuring autonomy for all arms of government in a way that no arm of government can hold the others to ransom, that itself being the legislative intent of Sections 81 (3) and 121 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Linked to the desired fiscal autonomy for each of the three arms of government is also the urgent, cogent and compelling need to ensure fiscal autonomy of each of the tiers (federal, state and local) of government, specifically as it relates to local government autonomy, if we must have a healthy democracy founded on true federalism.
“It is hoped that our governors would equally see the need to work with the National Assembly in this regard in the course of the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly.”
Nominee for the position of Chief Judge, Justice Abdullahi said that he was among the first magistrate appointed in FCT in 1987 and he has spent 33 years as Judge.
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