From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) has set a May date to begin implementation of financial autonomy for state legislative and judiciary institutions.
Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) Dr Kayode Fayemi disclosed this after a meeting of stakeholders on financial autonomy for the judiciary and legislature chaired by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, at the presidential villa, Abuja on Monday.
He maintained that the NGF has never been opposed to the issue of financial autonomy and that the governors, the speakers, and judges are on the same page.
He further disclosed that upon emerging 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 Monday, an agreement has been reached, thus reiterating that Nigerians can expect implementation of the agreement no later than May.
The meeting was also attended by state governors including Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi) as well as chairman and some members of the Conference State Assembly Speakers.
The NGF’s decision came hours after members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) staged a march at the National Assembly in solidarity with judiciary workers who are protesting in favour of financial autonomy in the country.
The lawyers who had earlier converged at the Court of Appeal gate before proceeding to the Parliament’s complex in their numbers were stopped from entering the Assembly by security operatives.
The leadership of the NBA had earlier on Friday directed its branch chairmen nationwide to lead “visits” to government houses in their states over the 36 governors’ alleged unwillingness to implement judiciary’s financial autonomy.
A statement by the president of the association, Olumide Akpata, directed the branch chairmen to lead the ‘visits’ on Monday, and on every subsequent Mondays until the demand for the judiciary’s financial autonomy is met.
It urged the branch leaders ‘to effectively mobilise their members’ for the ‘visit to the governors at the state government houses’to press home the demand.
JUSUN since April 6 left the courts in Nigeria under lock and key because of the non-implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary as the third arm of government. They commenced a nationwide strike today, April 19, 2021.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after the meeting, Governor Fayemi said: ‘For us we’re here for legislative and judicial autonomy and the governors, the speakers and the judges are on the same page, as far as this issue is concerned.
‘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.’
Asked to put a time frame to the implementation of the autonomy, he said: ‘As soon as the final document that is being cleaned up emerges, that is preparatory to implementation. We’re not going to put a timeframe in the air, but it will be implemented as soon as possible, definitely no later than the end of May 2021.’
The NGF chairman appealed to the striking judiciary workers to return to work in the interest of the country.
‘In the interest of the nation, we believe that the striking workers should return to their offices 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 seized of this matter and has been monitoring what has been happening and I think we’re basically at 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’re speaking with one voice on the implementation and no later than May, you will start seeing the implementation of the agreement that we’ve reached. Thank you.’
President Muhammadu Buhari had in May last year signed into law an Executive Order to grant financial autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary across the 36 states of the country.
The order also mandated the accountant-general of the federation to deduct from source amount due to state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocation to each state for states that refuse to grant such autonomy.
Also asked for his perspective on the altercation between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Governors’ Forum and the ruling party’s Progressive Governors Forum over the N60 billion allegedly printed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Ekiti Governor said the NGF did not want to dabble into the matter.
‘It’s because for us, this is not an issue that requires a statement from the governors. The Honourable Minister of Finance has dealt with it and the issue is out there for you to deal with.’