The delay by governors to sign an agreement for the implementation of financial autonomy for state judiciaries and legislatures has prolonged the strike embarked upon by workers of the two arms of government.
Two officials of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) told newsmen in Abuja yesterday that the unions insisted on the commencement of the implementation of the agreement before they would call off their strike.
Also, the Vice-Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Sokoto State, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, has accused President Muhammadu Buhari of overreaching himself by signing Executive Order 10 that sought to enforce the implementation of financial autonomy for state legislatures and judiciaries.
The workers had last week agreed with the governors on the implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary and legislature in each state of the federation as stipulated by the 1999 Constitution.
However, six days after the agreement was sealed, the governors are yet to sign it.
When asked if all states have commenced the implementation of the agreement, the sources said they were yet to confirm remittance of funds to the state judicial and legislative arms as of yesterday.
“Some signatories, especially the governors are yet to sign the agreement. We were told that they were to sign the document by Tuesday but for some reason, they were not able to do so,” he said.
Apart from the governors, the source said a representative of the National Judicial Council (NJC) was also yet to endorse the agreement.
According to the agreement, the disbursement of funds to the judiciary and legislature in each of the states is to take effect from April allocation.
However, newsmen learnt that states like Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Lagos have already complied with the provisions of Executive Order 10 by remitting money to the arms of government.
But they are expected to formalise the arrangement by setting up the fund disbursement structures as provided in the agreement.
While presenting the agreement reached at a meeting of both parties held last week in Abuja, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, said the parties signed a document containing the framework for each of the state government to grant autonomy to their legislature and judiciary.
He said the governors had earlier studied the document and agreed with it, adding that the implementation would commence this week with the distribution of the April allocation from the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC).
FAAC met last Friday and shared allocations to the federal, states and local governments.
However, the judiciary and the legislature were yet to receive their direct allocations as agreed.
One of the union officials told newsmen that they would wait till Friday to see if the governors would sign the agreement.
Under the agreement, the state governors have 45 days timeline from the date of signing of the agreement to implement the deal or the federal government would be forced to invoke Executive Order 10 by asking the Accountant General of the Federation to transfer funds directly to the state judiciary and legislative arms.
Meanwhile, the Vice Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Sokoto State, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, has accused Buhari of overreaching himself by signing Executive Order 10 that sought to force the implementation of financial autonomy for state legislatures and judiciaries.
Tambuwal said the NGF had expected Buhari to have consulted widely before issuing the order, adding that exercising such powers unilaterally is tantamount to illegality.
He also said it was erroneous to say that the 36 governors opposed judicial and legislative autonomy, clarifying that they were even the initiators.
Tambuwal spoke in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, yesterday during the Attorney-General’s Colloquium organised by the Ekiti State Ministry of Justice Academy, in honour of the retiring Chief Judge of the State, Justice Ayodeji Daramola.
Speaking on the topic: ‘The Judicial Autonomy: Perspective of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum’, Tambuwal said Buhari was allegedly ill-advised in issuing the order.
He added that such an illegal voyage undermined the powers of the governors.
He said: “Nigerian Constitution in Section 121(3) provides that: ‘Any amount standing to the credit of the – (a) House of Assembly of the State, and (b) judiciary In the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state shall be paid directly to the said bodies respectively; in the case of the judiciary, such amount shall be paid directly to the heads of the courts concerned.
“As governors of the 36 states under the platform of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), let me state very clearly that we are unequivocally committed to the autonomy of the judiciary and the legislature.
“The recent misunderstanding on the financial autonomy of the judiciary is predicated on the need to establish an implementation framework to the 4th Alteration of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Section 121 (3). What we have questioned, and we have made this known at every opportunity, is the process of implementing this provision of the constitution.
“As governors, we will be failing in our responsibility if we refuse to draw the attention of the president, stakeholders and the country to grave concerns about the constitutionality of Executive Order 10 of 2020. That was the basis of the position that we took on the Executive Order 10.
“The Executive Order 10 ostensibly intended to support the implementation of judicial financial autonomy, was completely unnecessary and ill-advised. Let me at this juncture state clearly that we never questioned the right of Mr. President to issue Executive Orders. We only stated that S. 121(3) did not require presidential executive fiat to become implementable.”
Tambuwal expressed delight that consensus had finally been reached on the autonomy conundrum adding that the strike is expected to be suspended soon.
“The agreement allows a period of 45 days for implementation structures to be put in place across states, including the enactment of a fund management law, which will grant the judiciary the power to manage its capital and recurrent expenditures in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.
“Budgetary releases to the judiciary will be pro-rated based on the actual revenues recorded each month by the state government. Monthly revenue reconciliation and allocation will be presided over by a State Account Allocation Committee (SAAC) to be set up under the Fund Management Law – a similar practice to what we have at the federal level.
“We hope that this will put an end to the long weeks of strike action that have seen our judicial and criminal justice system grounded to a halt. We have lost so much in the past weeks. The big takeaway is the centrality of communication, sincerity, trust and dialogue.
“We have requested that the President disbands the Presidential Implementation Committee on the Autonomy of State Legislature and Judiciary, to avert future ranco6r between the various arms of government, arising from misconceived guidance from a committee lacking the requisite understanding of constitutional matters,” the governor stated.
The Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, also stated that judicial and legislative autonomy is advantageous, adding the governors, however, have limitations based on constitutional provisions.
He said: “Who is to take capital spending for the judiciary and legislature has always been the controversy. The governors will continue to hold our judiciary with reverence because I know that this democracy will not endure if we subject our judiciary to the jackboots of the executive.
“There is no questioning the fact that we can do a lot more for our judiciary to make it truly independent.”