By Ovasa Ogaga,
International lawyer, Hon. Prince Ned Nwoko has thrown his weight behind the agitation for judicial autonomy to enhance the rule of law and democracy in Nigeria.
This is coming against the backdrop of a nationwide strike by the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), which had paralyzed court activities.
Nwoko said in a statement issued in Abuja that the demand of the workers for judicial and legislative autonomies was justified.
He added that an independent judiciary is the bedrock of democratic institutions, good governance, and social justice. He noted that judges and other stakeholders involved in the dispensation of justice and law can only discharge their constitutional duties with due diligence when they have functional independence.
Prince Nwoko stated that President Mohammadu Buhari had championed the move with his policy thrust of granting autonomy for local governments, the House of Assembly, and the judiciary.
He said the president’s quest was a bold patriotic template that would strengthen the separation of powers among the executive, judiciary and legislature, for the benefit of all Nigerians.
He added that President Buhari’s democratic restructuring should be supported by every reasonable Nigerian.
What is required urgently according to Nwoko is for the National Assembly to ensure full implementation, especially on financial and institutional autonomy.
The former federal lawmaker said the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as national judicial officers, had witnessed greater autonomy since 1999, a privilege alien to the State Assemblies and judges at the second tier of government.
He emphasized that only a few governors in the federation had given the bar and bench, state legislators, and the local government the liberty to operate, having ensured vice grip on power.
“As a lawyer, I am in full support of the national protest for autonomy by the judicial workers under their umbrella body JUSUN. It is heartwarming that the Nigeria Bar Association NBA has also seen merit.
“We need strong democratic institutions at the various levels in Nigeria in the interest of all. Judges deserve financial and administrative autonomy to function freely. State legislators should not be appendages of state Chief executives. Local governments must stand alone to drive effective governance at the grassroots.
“This framework of institutional freedom will give civil rule its true meaning in Nigeria as it aligned with American Abraham Lincoln’s dictum of democracy as government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Democratic independence at all levels represents the core of widespread demands for restructuring and true federalism,” Nwoko stated.