By Yusuf Alli
Despite signing a Memorandum of Action on autonomy for state legislature and Judiciary, most of the 36 governors have not encouraged the enactment of legislation to back it up.
Only 12 states have passed the appropriate law for autonomy for state legislature and judiciary.
Out of the 12 states, eight did so in the North and four others in the South.
The states are Plateau; Sokoto; Bauchi; Bayelsa; Enugu; Lagos; Imo; Jigawa; Kwara; Taraba; Nassarawa; and Kaduna.
The Secretary, Implementation Committee on Autonomy of State Legislature and Judiciary, Senator Ita Enang made the disclosures in a paper presented to the Chief Judges of 36 states, 19 Grand Khadis and 17 Presidents of the Customary Court of Appeal at the National Judicial Institute in Abuja.
Enang, who spoke at a closed door session, said with financial autonomy, any errant head of government will pay for it.
He said during negotiations with the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASSAN) and the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria( JUSUN), there were heated arguments with the governors over who will handle award of contracts in the Legislature and the Judiciary,
He said governors will be laying land mines for the Judiciary or Heads of courts.
Enang asked the heads of courts to be careful in executing financial autonomy.
Following prolonged strike PASSAN and JUSUN, a Memorandum of Action was signed on May 20, 2021 by all the parties, including the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF).
All the states agreed to a 45 days window of implementation.
But, as at September 2021, Enang said only 12 states have complied with the agreement.
He shed light on what led to the issuance of Executive Order 10 by President Muhammadu Buhari on Legislative and judicial autonomy.
He said: “It is tempting, for time constraints, to skip the historical of the originating processes that led to the autonomy commencing from the Memo et al to the preparation and signing of Executive Order 10, which legally set out the template for the implementation in the different states with sanction for failure to so do.
“Upon Assent to the Constitution Amendment which reemphasized autonomy and funds to the Legislative and Judicial arms directly from the Consolidated Revenue Funds of these states upon appropriation, the governors failed to release the funds to the said arms.
“Upon this, the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Body of Chief Judges, Hon Justice Ajana (C. J Kogi), of blessed memories and Hon Justice Kate Abiri (C J Bayelsa) consulted with institutions of government as to possible aid to implementation.
“As Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, I prior consulted with higher authorities and upon green light originated a memo setting out the background and praying Mr. President for constitution of Presidential Implementation Committee on Autonomy of States Legislature and States Judiciary.
“The terms of the memo and prayers dated September 11, 2020 set out thus:
- To assess and review the level of compliance by all the 36 states of the Federation with section 121(3) of the 1999 constitution (as amended)
- To monitor, ensure and cause the implementation of financial autonomy across the judiciary and legislature of the 36 states of the federation in accordance with the provisions of the 1999 constitution (as amended) and other applicable laws, instruments and conventions however providing for financial autonomy for the legislature and judiciary at the tier of government
- To consult and relate with the appropriate federal and state MDAs including but not limited to the Governors Forum, (NGF) Accountant-General of the Federation and those of states, the National Economic Council and other institutions of state to ensure and where necessary enforce the implementation of the constitutional provision.
- To come up with appropriate modality or enforce to be adopted by all the states of the Federation for implementation and/or compliance with section 121(3) of the 1991 constitution (as amended)
- To do such other things that are deemed necessary or incidental to the fulfilment of the aim of the committee to attain the full purpose this assignment.
”The Committee was constituted and inaugurated with terms of reference and constitution as proposed.”
He said it was not easy to convince the governors to concede to autonomy for the Legislature and the Judiciary.
He said there were heated arguments and disagreements with the governors as to award of contracts.
He said after the signing of Memorandum of Action, only 12 states have enacted autonomy legislation for the Legislature and the Judiciary.
He added: “The committee and its mandate were sternly opposed and fought by the governors but eventually arrived at recommendations which were further stoutly resisted by governors who are Heads of the Executive arm of Government and in illegal control of the State Treasury disbursing at discretion without respect to the entitlement of the other two arms of government
“The recommendations were reduced to Executive Order No. 10 signed and issued by Mr. President setting out the process of Implementation and option of getting the sum deducted directly from the account of that states government at the Federation Account and pay directly to the account of the offended arm of government where the state fails.
“The governments of the states failed and refused as expected and after all steps failed, we initiated steps at deducting the monies due the State Judiciary from the Federation account.
“Memo went upstairs and the governors intervened opting for more fruitless time buying dialogue and Mr. President obliged and directed the Chief of Staff to the President to handle
“At this forum, after all familiar antics it was agreed that as per the E O 10, each state should have enacted or made Funds management Laws for each state regulating budgeting and fund releases to the account of each arm of government. This on its own was not honored until strike by Judiciary Staff Union and Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria which now moved us from the Chief of Staff office to The Ministry of Labour
“Memorandum of action was signed on May 20, 2021 which you all have with 45 days window of implementation.
“As at September 2021 only 12 States have passed the Legislation, namely: Plateau ; Sokoto; Bauchi ; Bayelsa ; Enugu; Lagos; Imo; Jigawa; Kwara; Taraba; Nassarawa; and Kaduna.
Enang advised heads of the Legislature and the Judiciary to be cautious and place premium on due diligence.
He said with financial autonomy, any errant head of government will pay for it.
He added: “But under the autonomy regime you are, as the Heads of the Arm of Government personally responsible. And will answer for it. Thus the need for due diligence as physician will now heal himself.”
“The best and error proof process is as provided or will be provided in the Judiciary (funds management) Law or such Legislation by whatever name called passed by the State House of Assembly and Assented to by the Governor guiding the operation and application of Judiciary funds by the Judiciary for the Judiciary to be accounted for by the Judiciary.
“Again, in the Memorandum of Action signed in the course of the PASSAN and JUSUN strikes wherein we laid out irreducible minimum in the template as to the proposed content of the Laws, we did have heated arguments and disagreements with the governors as to award of contracts.
“The tone of that discussion and possible land mine evident thereat indicates that the Executive or the Governors will be laying land mines for the Judiciary or Heads of courts to fall into and be doomed.
“Be wise and go for precedence when Statutes leaves loopholes or presents a banana peel.”
Enang asked Chief Judges to be careful in implementing financial autonomy in order not to land in the net of any anti-corruption agency.
He said: “I have had the privilege of examining Funds Management Laws of States’ Legislatures and Judiciary and they, in the main provides for due process institutions and procedure within the Laws and insulates the Heads of the Legislative and Judicial Arms of Governments from direct and hands on participation in financial matters except general direction as given to the Governor in the Executive.
“A governor is not personally involved in processes but such are handled in Ministerial form with permanent Secretaries as accounting officers, not even the commissioners. This is the process as now is, and is to be entrenched statutorily in the Judiciary Funds’ management template.
“This can be said to be the Convention as the political office holders as transient transitory political figures are not allowed by extant practice in any of the three Arms of Government to be a signatory other than ‘approving’ authority in the funds management process.
“Where there appears a lacuna not covered by the Funds Management Laws, or the convention in other arms of Governments in any matter arising in Course of implementation of Financial autonomy please fall back to the practice adopted by the National Judicial Council (NJC) inn fund management process from budget conception, bilateral with Budget office, inclusion in the Annual Budget as will be laid before the National Assembly, defence before the mandate committees, passage, Assent, release to the account of the Judiciary, syndication to the different Heads of courts by the National Judicial Council headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, advert for procurement.
“Same are the Chief Judges of states expected to do to other subject courts and Judicial bodies for thus will you escape from answering questions from Anti-corruption institutions.”