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Published On: Mon, Jun 29th, 2020

Autonomy for states’ legislature, judiciary: To be or not

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President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly has delayed the gazetting of the Executive Order 10 which would have compelled state governors to ensure financial autonomy for state legislatures and judiciaries. Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State announced that recently in Abuja while briefing journalists at the end of a meeting of state governors with Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.
Executive Order 10 which the President signed last month requires the accountant-general of the federation to deduct from source money due to state legislatures and judiciaries from monthly federally generated revenues from allocations of state governments that refuse to grant such autonomy. The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, earlier had said the Executive Order No. 10 of 2020, made it mandatory for all states of the federation to make allocations to the legislature and the judiciary a first-line charge in their budgets. According to him, “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).”
The executive order was welcomed across board with the exception of the governors. No surprise here because they would lose the control they have always had over their legislatures and judiciaries for as long as they remained tied to their apron strings. Failing in their effort at stopping the order, they have used their number to postpone its implementation.
Explaining how they managed to get the President to accept a delay, Fayemi who is the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, said: “We have a delegation of the Forum here to discuss some matters of fundamental importance to the nation and the President has asked that we meet with the Attorney General, the Chief of Staff and the Minister of Finance, Planning and Budget on the issue. It is an issue that has seized the interest of many of you in the media and a lot of people in the federation, it is about the autonomy of the State legislature and the judiciary and we’ve met with the President before now on it and the President was very pleased that we, as governors, are united in support of the autonomy of State judiciary and the legislature; that’s the position of the 36 governors of the federation.
“What is an issue is the constitutionality of the modalities of what had been put in the Executive Order and the President was gracious enough to say ok, given your concerns about that we will delay the gazetting of the order and allow you to meet with the Attorney General and the Minister of Finance to work out the modalities.” Fayemi said the governors were already meeting with speakers of state houses of assembly over autonomy for the legislature. “In any case, we have been meeting at our level with the Conference of Speakers.”
The governors know they are fighting a battle they cannot win. The constitution is not on their side. The best they had hoped for was the delay the President had graciously given them – to prepare for the inevitable. Buhari has shown he has a listening ear, but do the needful he must.

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