By Dennis Essang, Port Harcourt
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, has been sharply critisized for threatening to stop the salaries of protesting judicial workers who are asking for the financial autonomy of the judiciary.
The All Progressives Congress, APC, said in a statement issued in Port Harcourt on Wednesday said that, Governor Wike has no right to intimidate workers who are protesting in the interest of the common man.
“The right to protest is guaranteed by the Nigerian Constitution. The workers who are demonstrating are protected by our laws.
“Members of the NBA, learned as they are, understand the purpose of the strike. This is why they embarked on peaceful marches to Government Houses across the country to persuade governors to lay off the judiciary.
“We are shocked that the right of dissent which is respected in every democracy is something that Governor Wike wishes to trample upon in Rivers State by threatening the right of workers to earn their keep while engaging in the pursuit of a noble cause.
“What is at stake is not who presents the State budget. We are amazed that the State Governor alluded to this in his speech at the valedictory session held in honour of the outgoing State Chief Judge.
“The Governor knows it is the responsibility of the executive to present budgets. The intention of the lawmakers who re-wrote this aspect of the Constitution was not to deny state governments of this right.
“What is at stake, from what we see, is the direct remittance of funds meant for the judiciary. This is what the National Assembly which has amended the law or aspects of the Constitution refers to as the first line charge.
“We are not ready at this point to engage in an argument with Governor Wike over what he describes as prompt releases of funds meant for the judiciary by his government. Our position is that he does not deserve any praise from the people for fulfilling a statutory duty that he is obligated to perform.
“The law relating to the transmission or remission of funds meant for the judicial arm and the legislature at the State level has changed.
“That amendment duly passed by the National Assembly with the active concurrence of a majority of State Houses of Assembly says such funds should be moved henceforth from the Federation Account directly to the coffers of the other arms of government.
“By insisting on having a measure of control over such releases and threatening striking workers in the judiciary, the Rivers State Government is implying in a sense, that it may be enjoying certain advantages arising from the management of such resources that are not known to law.
“We wish to state categorically that all democratic institutions, including governments, derive their existence and power from the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Accordingly, the authority that these institutions exercise derives strength from the prescriptions laid out by the Constitution, either as it is, or as amended by the representatives of the people.
“We cannot on one hand talk of guaranteeing the autonomy of the three arms of government while one arm seeks the sinister control of the affairs of other tiers of government under whatever guise.”
The APC urged the Rivers State Government to respect the new position of the law put in place in order to ensure the advancement of nation’s democracy.
“Other state governments within and outside the South South are increasingly coming to terms with the reason behind the amendment pioneered by the National Assembly. The Rivers State Government need not fight over nothing. What is done is done.
“Finally, we urge the Wike administration not to contemplate stopping the salaries of striking judicial workers, or fighting the Nigerian Bar Association would indeed be a costly mistake “, the statement added .