State governors, under the aegis of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), initially rejected Executive Order (EO)10 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on May 20, 2020 for the implementation of financial autonomy for state legislature and judiciary. The Implementation of Financial autonomy of the Legislature and Judiciary Order 2020 is in line with Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which provides for financial autonomy at the state tier of government. The implementation of the order, among other things, is intended to strengthen the two institutions at state level, and make them independent and accountable in line with the tenets of democracy as enshrined in the constitution.
According to the order, “the Accountant-General shall, by this Order, and such 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 the Federation Accounts 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.” Besides, the EO 10 gives the Accountant General of the Federation the power to deduct from the allocations due to a state from the Federation Account, any funds appropriated for the legislature or judiciary which the state fails to release to its House of Assembly or Judiciary and pay same directly to the state’s legislature or judiciary concerned.
The governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, who is also the Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, has stated that though the state governors are not opposed to the implementation of the EO 10, nonetheless, they are strongly opposed to Federal Government’s attempt to force state governors to enforce the implementation of the order. He claimed that the governors were not consulted before the President made the order, and insisted that due process was not followed. He added that any implementation of the order will be preceded by discussions and agreement by all stakeholders. He argued that the state governors should not be stampeded to implement the order.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubuakar Malami, said the Federal Government was determined to push through the content of the order. The delay in the implementation of the order may be responsible for the recent strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria. A Federal High Court, in Abuja, had in January, 2014, affirmed the financial autonomy of the Judiciary. That judgment is yet to be enforced. It is disappointing that the governors are still foot-dragging on the matter. Their reasons for opposing the enforcement of the order are not convincing enough to prolong its implementation, almost one year after the President signed the EO 10
We believe that autonomy for the legislature and judiciary will go a long way to strengthen our democracy. With the independence, the legislature and judiciary will be in a better position to effectively discharge their constitutional duties without taking dictations from the executive arm. We believe that the EO 10 was well thought out. It should not be delayed any further. It is therefpre jeartwarming that state governors have stopped stonewalling on this and are ready to do the needful next month.
We urge them to set up a committee for the implementation of the order as provided in the appropriations and authorisation of the EO 10. It provides that every State government shall set up the committee, comprising the state Commissioner of Finance, Accountant General of the state, representative of the State Budget Office, Chief Registrar of the State High Court, or Sharia Court of Appeal (where applicable), the Clerk of the State House of Assembly and Secretary of the state Judicial Service Commission.
Nothing should be done to impede this process. What is needed is to address all grey areas for seamless implementation of the Executive Order 10. The Presidential Implementation Committee, in accordance with the provisions of Section 8(1) of the order, should carry out the recommendations forthwith. In the same vein, the Accountant-General of the Federation should take appropriate steps to ensure compliance with the provisions of the order and the recommendation of the Presidential Committee.
Beyond that, we call for a workable budget for each arm of the state government based on the request and needs of the accounting officers. Let there be autonomy for state legislature and judiciary.