You Cannot Dissolve the Rivers State Judicial Service Commission or Any Commission Created by the Constitution

Access to Justice is deeply worried by reports that the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has “dissolved” the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission and the Rivers State Judicial Service Commission. According to the media reports, the Governor was acting on the recommendation of the State House of Assembly to do so.

Access to Justice strongly opposes the “dissolution” of these Commissions: These bodies are creations of the Constitution and not the State and neither a State government nor any other government can “dissolve” what the Constitution has by itself created. In section 197 (1), the Constitution states:

There shall be established for each State of the Federation the following bodies, namely -
(a) State Civil Service Commission;
(b) State Independent Electoral Commission; and
(c) State Judicial Service Commission.
(2) The composition and powers of each body established by subsection (1) of this section are as set out in Part II of the Third Schedule to this Constitution.

These bodies are creatures of the Constitution and even when they work imperfectly, they do not become, and cannot be subject to the control of any government. Should they be, they would lose their autonomy and independence and be more widely perceived as partisan institutions that cannot be trusted to take forthright, objective and independent decisions and actions of their own.

While the Constitution enables the Governor to remove individual members of these Commissions “...acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the House of Assembly of the State praying that he be so removed for inability to discharge the functions of the office (whether arising from infirmity of mind or body or any other cause) or for misconduct” it does not give the Governor power to “dissolve” the Commissions as a whole. The idea of “dissolving” these bodies is therefore, illegal, and constitutes a clear violation of the Constitution as well as a serious threat to the independence of these Commissions. Guaranteeing the independence of these bodies, section 202 of the Constitution provides:

“In exercising its power to make appointments or to exercise disciplinary control over persons, the State Civil Service Commission, the State Independent Electoral Commission and the State Judicial Service Commission shall not be subject to the direction and control of any other authority or person.”

In relation to the Judicial Service Commission, Governor Wike’s actions will simply compound and deepen the longstanding problems the Rivers State Judiciary has endured till this time. A2Justice urges the Chief Judge of the State to reject and disavow the so-called “dissolution” of the Judicial Service Commission and to refuse the directive to act as the “sole administrator” of the body.

Joseph Otteh                                 
Executive Director