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Justice Minister, Malami, Governors at loggerheads on implementation of autonomy for State legislatures, judiciary

Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, and Governors under the Nigerian Governors Forum are at loggerheads over the implementation of Executive order No 0010 which began the process for the implementation of the autonomy granted the State legislatures and judiciary by the recent amendment to the Nigerian constitution.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Friday 22 May, 2020 signed into law the Executive Order No. 10 of 2020 for the implementation of Financial Autonomy of State Legislature and State Judiciary.

The Order Provides that “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).”

Based on the Executive Order, all the nation’s 36 States of the Federation shall include the allocations of the two Arms of Government in their Appropriation Laws.

Specifically, article 6 (1) provides that “notwithstanding the provisions of this Executive Order, in the first three years of its implementation, there shall be special extraordinary capital allocations for the Judiciary to undertake capital development of State Judiciary Complexes, High Court Complexes, Sharia Court of Appeal, Customary Court of Appeal and Court Complexes of other Courts befitting the status of a Courts.

But the Governors had risen in unison against the Executive Order. Chairperson of the Governors Forum, Dr Kayode Fayemi, led a team of Governors to President Buhari to protest the enactment of the Order. They however did not succeed in the withdrawal of the order but the President agreed to a postponement of the publication of the Official Gazette of the order, which would have kick started the full implementation. The Official Gazette publication was scheduled for this week.

The postponement of the publication was such a victory for the Governors that it was part of the communique at their 10th teleconference on COVID -19 held on Wednesday.

The Governors resolved, at the meeting, to congratulate the President “for the decision to postpone the formal publication of the Executive Order #10 of 2020 in the Official Gazette to enable further consultations among all stakeholders.”

The Governors disclosed, in a communique issued at the end of the meeting, the NGF has constituted a committee, led by Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State to continue meeting with representatives “of the Conference of Speakers and other stakeholders to work out modalities for resolving all concerns regarding Executive Order #10 amicably.”

But the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Malami, fired back, insisting that Executive Order No 10 is sacrosanct.

In a statement by the Minister’s Spokesperson, Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, on Tuesday in Abuja, Malami said the re-enforcement of the constitutional provisions on the autonomy of the State legislature and judiciary as contained in Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria necessitated the Executive Order No 0010.

Malami noted with appreciation that the Governors of the 36 States of the Federation have agreed to the constitutionality of the autonomy of the State legislature and judiciary, maintaining that the essence of the Order was to see to the implementation of the autonomy.

he stated that in furtherance of the implementation of the Order, the Federal Government and Nigerian Governors’ Forum are jointly working on modalities for effective implementation of the order.

Malami said the Executive Order implementation Committee would incorporate valuable submissions from Governor’s Forum and other stakeholders with a view to seeing practicable implementation of the Executive Order.

Malami stated that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration came out with the Executive order No- 0010 in order to deepen democracy from grassroots and ensure effective implementation of the doctrine of separation of powers.

While congratulating Nigerians on this landmark historic achievement geared toward engendering democratic principles at the grassroots, the Minister called on more inter-agency support for the Order to accelerate the development Nigerian masses have been clamoring for.

The Governors have been using release of the funds to the State legislatures and judiciary as a means of control and maintaining the loyalty of the two arms of government. This is the reason why the State legislatures operate as rubber stamps of the executive. The Governors fear that giving the Governors financial independence would deprive them the only available means of keeping them under check and control.

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