Sokoto governor: President Buhari’s executive order on state legislature, judiciary autonomy unnecessary

Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State has said President Muhammadu Buhari was overreaching himself on the Executive Order 10 that gave directive on the implementation of judicial and legislative autonomies for states.

Tambuwal, who is the Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, said in Ado-Ekiti, Wednesday, that the President failed to consult widely before issuing the order.

The governor spoke 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, Ayodeji Daramola.

According to him, Buhari’s unilateral issuance of the order amounted to illegality.

Tambuwal, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives and member of the Peoples Democratic Party, denied that the 36 governors were vehemently opposed to judicial and legislative autonomy.

Speaking on the topic, The Judicial Autonomy: Perspective of the Nigerian Governors Forum, Tambuwal said the President was allegedly I’ll-advised in issuing the order that craved judicial autonomy for states, adding that such “illegal voyage” undermined the powers of the governors.

The president on May 20, 2020, issued the order to give breath to Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to ensure its implementation.

The order partly reads: “Whereas a Presidential Implementation Committee was constituted to fashion out strategies and modalities for the implementation of financial autonomy for the State Legislature and State Judiciary in compliance with section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended); taking into considerations all other applicable laws, instruments, conventions and regulations, which provides for financial autonomy at the State tier of Government;

“Whereas implementation of financial autonomy of the State Legislature and State Judiciary will strengthen the institutions at the State tier of Government and make them more independent and accountable in line with the tenets of democracy as enshrined by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended); and

“By the power vested in me as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under Section 5 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended), which extends to the execution and maintenance of the Constitution, laws made by the National Assembly (including but not limited to Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as Amended), which guarantee financial autonomy of the State Legislature and State Judiciary.

“Now, therefore, I, Muhammad Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in exercise of the power conferred on me, do hereby orders as follows-

“1. Appropriation, Authorisation, Orders, Etc.(a) Without prejudice to any other applicable laws, legislations and conventions at the State tier of Government, which also provides for financial autonomy of State Legislature and State Judiciary, allocation of appropriated funds to the State Legislature and State Judiciary in the State appropriation laws in the annual budget of the State, shall be a charge upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State, as a First Line Charge.

“(b)The Accountant-General of the Federation shall by this Order and such any other Orders, Regulations or Guidelines as may be issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, authorise the deduction from source in the course of Federation Accounts Allocation from the money allocated to any State of the Federation that fails to release allocation meant for the State Legislature and State Judiciary in line with the financial autonomy guaranteed by Section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended).”

Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution(as amended) 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.”

Tambuwal, however, noted that the governors of the 36 States on the platform of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), were 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),” said Tambuwal.

“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 and opined that the strike was expected to be suspended anytime 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 constitution,” the governor said.

“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 rancor between the various arms of government, arising from misconceived guidance from a committee lacking the requisite understanding of constitutional matters.”

Also speaking on the subject, the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, stated that the issue of judicial and legislative autonomies were advantageous, saying the governors also had limitations based on constitutional provisions .

“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,” Fayemi said.

“There is no questioning the fact that we can do a lot more for our judiciary to make it truly independent.”

On the meritorious service of the retiring judge, Fayemi said: “We extracted Ekiti laws from the old Ondo State Laws under him.

“The review of our rules of court, the Civil procedure rule and the Administration of Criminal Justice were all undertaken under his watch . He has been a blessing to Ekiti judiciary.”

In his contributions, Daramola said judicial autonomy was as old as the 1999 constitution, saying the section 121 (3) was simple and should be respected by state governors.

“If our monies are paid directly, we will utilise it judiciously more than it were being spent for us by the executive. The governors must allow the judiciary and legislature to be run like the National Assembly,” the outgoing chief judge said

“Nigerian judges are the most hardworking in the world . How can our salaries be there for 15 years without upward review? This is the highest point of injustice ever”.

In his submission, the Attorney General and the Commissioner for Justice, Wale Fapohunda, said the programme was targeted at rescuing the justice system from all its sicknesses.

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