States Attorneys General sue Federal Government over funding of state courts

The Attorneys-General of the 36 states of the federation have filed a suit at the Supreme Court to challenge the legality of the Presidential Executive Order 10 issued last year to support the financial independence of state judiciaries and legislatures.

In the suit which challenges the widely accepted norm that states are to fund their courts, the litigants argue that it is the constitutional duty of the federal government to fund the capital and recurrent expenditures of states’ High Courts, as well as their Sharia and Customary Courts of Appeal.

They argued that the Executive Order violated the Nigerian constitution by seeking to compel state governments to fund the recurrent and capital expenditures of state courts, which according to them ought to be that of the federal government.

“It is the plaintiffs’ argument that the Presidential Executive Order No. 00-10 issued by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 22 May 2020 is unconstitutional as the said Executive Order seeks to compel state governments to fund recurrent and capital expenditures of the State High Courts of Appeal, which form part of the courts whose funding is the prerogative of the federal government in line with the provisions of sections 6, 81(3) and item 21(3) of the Third Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” their filing read in part.

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The Executive Order empowers the Accountant-General of the Federation to make deductions meant for state judiciaries from the state governments’ allocations and pay them to the National Judicial Council (NJC), which will then remit the deducted funds to the heads of the various state courts.

This, the plaintiffs argue, is against the provisions of sections 6(5), 81(3) and item 21(3) of the Third Schedule of the Nigerian constitution.


According to them, the constitutional provisions, when read together, “clearly impose and create a constitutional duty, responsibility and obligation” on the federal government “to fund both the capital and recurrent expenditure of the courts established by section 6 of the constitution”.

The courts established under section 6 of the constitution are the High Courts, Sharia Courts of Appeal and the Customary Court of Appeal of states, along with the federal courts, including the Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs asked the court to not only declare the Executive Order 10 unconstitutional, but to also order the federal government to “fund the capital and recurrent expenditure” of the state courts.

The suit, scheduled for hearing at the Supreme Court today (Monday), has the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, the federal government’s representative, as the sole defendant.

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