Following the 4th alteration to the 1999 Constitution (as amended), President Muhammadu Buhari recently constituted a committee to work out modalities for the implementation of autonomy of state legislature and judiciary. The committee, which will be inaugurated at a later date, is saddled with the job of ensuring that these two arms of government enjoy financial autonomy at the state level.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, is the Chairman of the committee while Senator Ita Enang, Senior Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Affairs (Senate) is the Secretary. Other members of the committee include Hon. Justice N. Ajanah, Chief Judge of Kogi State, Hon. Justice K. Abiri,Chief Judge of Bayelsa State and Hon. Kadi Abdullahi Maikano Usman, Grand Khadi of Gombe State Sharia Court of Appeal; Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, Speaker Lagos State House of Assembly and Hon. Abel Peter Riah, Speaker, Taraba State House of Assembly.
Senator David Umaru, Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters; Hon. Aminu Shagari, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Federal Judiciary; Accountant General of the Federation; Secretary to the National Judicial Council; D.G. Nigerian Governors Forum or his representative; Chairman of the Forum of Finance Commissioners in Nigeria are also members of the committee.
The committee is, among others, expected 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); and to monitor, ensure and cause the implementation of Financial Autonomy across the Judiciary and Legislature of 36 States. They should also consult and relate with the appropriate Federal and State Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to ensure and where necessary enforce the implementation of constitutional provision; and also come up with appropriate modality or model to be adopted by all the States of the Federation for implementation and/ or compliance with Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
We commend the president for constituting the committee. There is no doubt that the committee’s work will deepen our nascent democracy if implemented.
To hasten the work of the committee, we urge the president to inaugurate it without further delay. One of the challenges of our current democratic experiment is that the executive arm of government, whether at federal or state level, wields so much power. Granting financial autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary will, to a large extent, address this problem. But, devolution of powers from the central government to the federating units, which the proponents of restructuring are calling for, will largely address this problem better. We believe that the principle of separation of powers, which is vital to the success of any democratic system of government, should be allowed to prevail.
Since power belongs to the people in a democratic system, those elected to exercise such authority should do so to the benefit of the people. The legislature, as the closest arm of government to the people, must be seen to be independent enough to exercise the powers bestowed on it by the constitution. Any attempt to abridge this constitutionally guaranteed right, therefore, must be seen as an aberration. It is, therefore, laudable that the government is making moves to correct this lapse in our democracy.
The executive arm of the government should never work to the detriment of any other arm. In fact, the three arms of government should work together to the benefit of those that elected them into office. The legislature and the judiciary are, indeed, indispensable to the sustenance of any democratic government.
For them to succeed, everything must be done to ensure their financial autonomy. Granting them financial autonomy will prevent them from being appendages of state governors. Let the government expedite action on this vital assignment so that the lofty objective can be achieved.