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Disquiet As State Legislature, Judiciary Set For Financial Autonomy


Tongues are wagging over President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent endorsement of the Executive Order Number 10 granting financial autonomy to state legislature and judiciary.

What are the implications of this development on the independence and effectiveness of states’ judicial and legislative arms, and how are they reacting to the president’s action? Our correspondents serve you the positions of some states and other stakeholders.


President Muhammadu Buhari while signing the Executive Order Number 10 on Friday, May 22, said it was in compliance with Section 121(3) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 and was based on the powers granted by Section 5 of the Constitution.

It has however elicited reactions of varying dimensions from different sections of the nation’s political stratum, including some legal luminaries who described it as “unconstitutional” even as some state chief executives and lawmakers seem amused. State governors were reported to have insisted on constitutional provisions in meetings with President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) on the issue, saying the order is not necessary. They reportedly passed their feelings through the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, who was said to have been mandated to hold the meetings to avert constitutional wranglings. In most cases at the moment, the order appears to have an overwhelming endorsement of the affected arms of government in contrast to the position of the governors, according to our findings.

KADUNA


In Kaduna State, lawmakers and staff of the judiciary are delighted with the new order, describing it as a “bold step”. The Minority Leader of the state House of Assembly, Emmanuel Bako Kantiok, said it was a provision permitting direct funding of the legislature and judiciary rather than through the executive, and as such, the president’s action places more emphasis on the provisions. “Before now, what the state governors had done was to endorse illegality, fragrant disobedience of the constitution. So, the executive order has ordered enforcement,” he said. The state chairman of Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), Murtala Aminu, also described the order as a welcome development, saying Section 121 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended) clearly provides for financial autonomy of the arm of government, adding that anything less would be resisted. “Out of the 100 percent of funds being allocated to the judiciary, not up to 30 percent actually gets to the judiciary, the staff are being owed overheads for over four months and have not been paid leave grants for close to five years, so you see, with the autonomy granted to us by the president, we are at liberty to take care of our own house without interference from the other arms of government,” he said.

KANO

The Majority Leader of the Kano State House of Assembly, Alhaji Kabiru Hassan Dashi, said the assembly was already preparing for a transparent and accountable implementation of the new order.

“The signing of the Executive Order Number 10 by Mr. President is a clear indication that democracy has come to stay and Kano State will surely use the opportunity to improve on the execution of its responsibilities and we are optimistic that the state government will oblige us as we have not received any form of resistance from the executive,” he said.

The Chief Registrar, Kano State High Court, Malam Baba Jibo Ibrahim, said the judiciary had long been agitating for autonomy, adding that it had been a constitutional provision which had only included the state legislature.

OSUN

In Osun State, legislators and judicial officials expressed happiness with the new order, saying it would liberate the two arms of government.

“The president has done the right thing, what he did is in line with the nation’s Constitution. I commend him for the courage, history will not forget this,” said a judicial officer who pleaded not to be named.

Taofeew Badmus who represents Osogbo constituency at the Osun State House of Assembly, said the order was a right step in the right direction.

He said, “When the legislature and judiciary enjoy financial autonomy, they will be independent and perform their duties effectively, it is good for our democracy because it will promote clear separation of powers.”

A top political office holder in the state told our correspondent that Governor Oyetola and other governors were consulting on the issue and would take a joint decision.RIVERS

Legislators and judicial officials in Rivers State are happy with the order, according findings by our correspondent. The member representing Oyigbo Constituency I in the House of Assembly, Promise Dike, said the order was highly commendable.

Dike who spoke on a radio program monitored by our reporter in Port Harcourt said the order had gone a long way to show that President Buhari wants citizens’ freedom.

A Port Harcourt-based human rights advocate, Barrister Higherkin, said the order was a welcome development and legal but not constitutional.

He called for an amendment of the constitution to avoid a situation where what is legal, like the administration of criminal justice law, is not constitutional.

PLATEAU

The Plateau State government said it had always regarded financial autonomy of the legislature and judiciary as a constitutional issue.

The Director of Press and Public Affairs to the governor, Makut Simon Macham, said prior to President Buhari’s recent action, the state government had set up a committee to work out financial autonomy for all arms and the committee is currently at work.

He stressed that the committee is trying to iron out all the grey areas as there are actually areas that require clarification/understanding.

The member representing Jos North in the House of Assembly, Ibrahim Baba Hassan, said no governor would be happy with the order because it would not favour them.CROSS RIVER

The position of the Cross River State government is not clear on the new order as the governor and his aides have not spoken on the matter.

A former chief judge of the state, Justice Michael Edem, said what the president did was desired.

“The judiciary and legislature ought to be autonomous. This way, they will defend democracy, the decision is most commendable.” he said.

A lawyer, Justice Osai Ahiakwo, in an interview said the order would galvanize the financial independence of both arms of government.

BAUCHI

The Bauchi State government has yet to make any official statement on the order, but the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Abubakar Y. Suleiman, who spoke through his press secretary, Abdul Ahmed Burra, said, “The successful implementation of the order will face some hitches such as fiscal discipline, especially in the legislative arm. What formula of distribution would be put in place to sustain the autonomy?

“The structure and layout of the Executive Order in my humble view will make implementation so difficult. For instance, Section 2 of the Order which demands that state governments should set up committees for determination of the budget, is this feasible? Another major issue is what to be shared by the three arms, is it gross or net of the allocation to the state government?”

BAYELSA

The leaders of both Bayelsa State House of Assembly and judiciary have not reacted to the order, but our correspondent gathered that they are being very careful in handling the situation to avoid friction with the governor.

Mr Daniel Alabrah, the acting Chief Press Secretary to Governor Douye Diri, said the governor would react to the decision at the Governors’ Forum meeting.IMO

The Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly, Collin Chiji and chairman of the state chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association, Barrister Damian Anosike, described financial autonomy to the legislature and judiciary as long overdue.

“The signing of the executive order granting autonomy to the judiciary and legislature is fine because it has long been on the table. But we are waiting to see how it can be implemented. It’s easier said than done. You know that proclamation and implementation are two different things. It will assist the legislature to function optimally instead of always going cap in hand to the executive. We wish it will be fully implemented.

He described the idea as “very beautiful”. According to him, the full implementation of the executive order will remove the stranglehold of the executive by the other two arms of government and remove the dependency syndrome of the other arms on the executive.

However, the state government said the order does not concern it as financial autonomy of both arms was already in the state.

The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, told our correspondent that the first thing Governor Hope Uzodimma did on assumption of office was ensuring that the two arms operate with financial independence.

According to him, it was because of the action of the governor that majority of the lawmakers defected to the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) since they felt that “a Daniel has come to judgment.”

BORNO

The Borno State government expressed happiness with the order, saying it had all along been practicing it.

“As far as Governor Babagana Umara Zulum and the state government are concerned, granting autonomy to the state legislature and judiciary is a welcome development,” Isa Gusau, the Special Adviser on Communication and Strategy, said.“To us here in Borno autonomy underscores what is normal, our legislature and judiciary are already independent, and this independence is underscored by the fact that there has never been any friction between them and the executive.

“Friction between these two arms of government occurs only when the executive interferes in their operations, the executive is too assertive or when there is something to hide, the arrogance of the executive brews such friction,” he said.

“Governor Zulum has been extremely consultative in his constitutional relationship with these two arms of government, and this is testified by the fact that he always consults them on laws to be made, policies to be formulated and government appointments to be made according to constitutional requirements and relationship of cordiality.”

LAGOS

In Lagos, some senior lawyers described the order as critical to addressing the problems of the judiciary.

Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), said no matter the amount of money released, the judiciary should have the power to determine its budget and spending, and to prioritize its commitment level, all targeted at delivering justice to the people.

“The same goes for the state legislature, to be more proactive in deploying legislation to address the myriad of problems plaguing our land, especially in empowering the state to deliver durable infrastructure to the people, starting with electricity,” he said.

A former NBA president, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), also commended the president for the order. He said: “The intendment of Executive Order 10 is to implement Section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which the president as chief executive officer of Nigeria has powers pursuant to Section 5 of the Constitution to enforce by requesting states to pay monies directly to the state legislature and judiciary. There is in place a body of case law which supports Executive Order 10 one of which is Agbakoba vs FG, The NJC & National Assembly Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/63/2013 decided in my favour by the Federal High Court in 2014.

“Any state in Nigeria that feels Executive Order 10 infringes on its powers should approach the Supreme Court to challenge it but they should not forget that even if they are successful there is still a duty imposed by Section 121 (3) to pay monies directly to state legislatures and judiciaries,” he said.Lawyers react

Obioma Ezenwobodo Esq said the president has no powers to arrogate to himself “the power to alter/modify the provisions of the Constitution just by a mere order.”

“That Section 121 of the Constitution that provides for financial autonomy of state legislature and judiciary is being observed in breach by the governors is not a justification to employ an unconstitutional means to remedy a constitutional crisis. Two wrongs cannot make a right,” he said.

Ali Zubair Esq said the executive is a part of the constitution to curb the excessive of the governors.

“They (governors) determine what the Houses of Assembly and judiciary get despite the constitutional provisions in particular placing the judiciary on first line charge,” he said.

“The executive order is simply saying that states do not comply by handing over to the state legislative arm and judiciary funds as received and meant for them. The Accountant General of the Federation should deduct from source and credit the relevant organ of government directly. This is to a large extent will improve on the doctrine of separation of powers as we have today. To the governors, it is all about control that is why they are jittery.”

Ekweremadu reacts

A former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, faulted the order, saying while the intent might be good, the action was unnecessary and unconstitutional.

He spoke Friday on “Political Voices”, a current affairs programme on Dream FM, Enugu monitored by our reporter.

He said the 8th Assembly passed the amendment to the Constitution to grant financial autonomy to state Judiciary and legislature and the president dutifully signed it into law over a year ago.

He said the amendments were self-executing and the states should have gone ahead to work out the modalities.“But that didn’t happen. So, the president now set up a committee headed by the Attorney-General of the Federation to work out the modalities for implementation. I think it was at that point that they deemed it necessary to come up with an executive order to strengthen the implementation.

“But regrettably, they have simply mutilated those provisions of the Constitution as amended. Now, they are adding some aspects suggesting to the states how to manage their funds because part of that order is that in the next three years, the judiciary in the states should dedicate part of the monies coming to them to capital projects for the state Judiciary.

“It went ahead to suggest that if the governors fail to remit these monies to the state judiciary and legislature, then the president could direct that these monies be transferred straight from the federation account to the state judiciary and legislature. This in itself was not part of what we amended in the Constitution and it is not part of the Constitution,” he said.

Ekweremadu urged governors to approach the president and point out those mistakes so that he could withdraw in the executive order.

“And unfortunately, if they go to court, the implication is that the application of that amendment regarding financial independence will be put on hold because so long as they are in court those provisions will not be implemented.

“So, it something the governors, the Attorney General and the president need to settle amicably,” he said.

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