The National Judicial Council (NJC) on Wednesday said the depreciating value of the naira is a major problem in the implementation of the budget in the country.
Ahmed Saleh Executive Secretary of the Council revealed this to the House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary during the appraisal of the NJC’s 2021 budget, as well as defennce of the 2022 estimates.
According to Saleh, the exchange rate of naira to dollar as at December 2000 was N380 to one US dollar. But in May this year, the naira has further depreciated to N570 to one US dollar. This has caused a serious challenge in our budget implementation and performance, most especially on projects and services that have foreign exchange components.
“We have made adequate provisions in this year’s budget to cater for some of these major projects to the point of completion and exiting completely, but due to this depreciation and inflation, we certainly cannot achieve total completion. What this means is that we may have to roll over some of the projects next year and we may also have to make provision to cater for them,” he said.
While commending the Committee for its efforts in ensuring the appropriation for the NJC in 2022 was reviewed upwards from N110 billion to N120 billion, he assured that the increment would be put to judicious use.
He said as at October they have been able to access almost 80 percent of the total funds appropriated to the Nigerian judiciary in 2021. He added that performance and implementation was at 73 percent.
On his part, Chairman House Committee on Judiciary, Hon. Onofiok Luke, called for an intervention fund for the judiciary to enable it meet up its competing demands and challenges.
He assured that the National Assembly would continue to take legislative action that would lead to better welfare of judicial officers and called for the cooperation and partnership of relevant stakeholders in this regard.
He also stressed the need for adequate security for judicial workers.
His words:”There should be better living and working conditions for our judicial officers. There is a need to put in place, technology that would make our courtrooms to be in line with what is obtainable in other climes is making the sum appropriated inadequate.
“Of great importance to this committee is the security of judicial officers. We have stated as a committee that we should create an enabling environment, not only a working environment, not just good living conditions, but a secured environment for our judicial officials to operate without hindrance, without any fear of intimidation or harassment. That is why we condemn the attack on the Justice of the Supreme Court, Mary Odili. It should not repeat itself because we are weakening the morale and strength of our judicial officers.
“It is quite disheartening that not only do they have challenges in their workplace, they have challenges even in their pay. So it is the resolve of this committee and the House under the leadership of Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila and the entire leadership for us to partner and ensure that there is a review of salaries that would make for better welfare of judicial officers.
“There other issue is an appeal that we made and part of the thing we have asked for is that let us take justice down to the people. The question now today is not access to justice, the question today is the exit of justice. And so a combination of two would mean that we need to have infrastructure closer to the people. So it would not be out of place for us to seek for the establishment of some other divisions of court in places that they do have like places that don’t have National Industrial Court.
“Yes, we might say that there are minimal labour law cases in those jurisdictions, but we should not deny few the opportunity of seeking redress when their rights are infringed. A place like the Court of Appeal, the chairman of this committee has in the last two years, requested for a division of the Court of Appeal in Uyo.
“Uyo deserve it as you see most of the cases in Calabar and then the road if we have a good road network between Calabar and Akwa Ibom, then they would not be having a challenge. So please put it as a consideration. It is not a House for the chairman for the Chairman of the committee but it is a division of the Court of Appeal, Uyo Division. Also we see what we can do with the Ekiti division too to make sure it comes on stream, and other divisions that need to be dealt with”.