State governors have agreed to grant financial autonomy to their judiciaries and houses of assemblies. By accepting to do so they have acceded to the main demand of striking judiciary workers nationwide. The strike has crippled courts across the country.
The position of the state governors was conveyed by Ekiti State governor Kayode Fayemi as the chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum. Speaking Monday in Abuja, he said the governors and other stakeholders “have reached an agreement on the implementation of financial autonomy for state legislature and the judiciary.”
Fayemi claimed that state governors were never opposed to legislative and judicial autonomy, saying the governors, the speakers of houses of assembly and the judges “are on the same page on the issue.” He added, “We just emerged from a meeting with the Solicitor-General of the Federation, the representatives of the judiciary, the representatives of the Conference of Speakers, and House of Representatives and we are on all fours. An agreement has been reached.
“First, the issue is about implementation. There has been no objection from governors on judicial and legislative autonomies. As a matter of fact, it would not have passed if governors were not in support, in the first instance, in the state assemblies. So, that issue has been fully and holistically addressed, but we don’t just want to agree to something on paper without working out the modalities for implementation. Thankfully, the meeting we have just emerged from, with the Chief of Staff to the President chairing, has worked out the modalities to the satisfaction of all parties.”
On when the implementation would begin, Fayemi said, “As soon as the final document that is being cleaned up emerges, that is preparatory to implementation. We are not going to put a timeframe in the air, but it will be implemented as soon as possible, definitely not later than the end of May 2021.”
The governor then appealed to the striking judiciary workers to return to work in the interest of the nation. He said calling off their action was important because “as far as this has gone, we have met with all the parties concerned; the President, through the Chief of Staff, has also been briefed on this matter and has been monitoring what has been happening. I think we are basically in a position where whether you speak to the Conference of Speakers’ chairperson or you speak to me or you speak to the representative of the judiciary or you speak to the Solicitor-General of the Federation, you will hear that we are speaking with one voice on the implementation and not later than May, you will start seeing the implementation of the agreement that we have reached.”
It is regrettable that it has had to take a strike by the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) to get state governors to implement the Financial Autonomy for State Legislature and Judiciary Executive Order 10 that President Muhammadu Buhari issued in June 2020. It makes the budgets of these two arms of government a first line charge. This means that they no longer have to go cup in hand to state governors to literally beg for funds.
However, the governors have been unwilling to cut this apron string to release the legislature and judiciary. They have also refused to let go of local government administration which the Constitution qualifies as the third tier of government. These abnormalities have been responsible for our democracy not maturing. Things must not go on the way they do any longer. It is good news that governors have accepted to give the legislature and judiciary financial autonomy. They must do the same for their local governments.