In 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the constitutional amendments, granting financial autonomy to state legislature and state judiciary.
Also, the president later inaugurated Presidential Implementation Committee on Autonomy of the State Legislature and State Judiciary.
Buhari directed the members of the committee to be meticulous and diligent in the discharge of their duties.
He said that the setting up of the committee was necessitated by the realisation that legislative and judicial autonomy were necessary preconditions for nation’s democracy to endure.
According to him, the committee is expected to foster effective implementation of the autonomy constitutionally granted the state legislature and judiciary in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Further to Buhari’s assent, on May 16, Nigerian state governors on the platform of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), expressed their commitment to work with the Federal Government to implement the law.
The then Chairman of NGF, former Governor Abdulazeez Yari of Zamfara, said: I align with the motion that the legislature and judiciary autonomy is a necessary precondition for an enduring democracy’’.
The governors observed that the autonomy would ensure that “money due to the judiciary will go to the account of the judiciary directly and money due to the legislature will go to the account of the legislature directly.
“It is intended to ensure that money for the judiciary is not spent on the judiciary or on the judiciary but it is spent by the judiciary for the judiciary and on the judiciary and the same goes for the legislature’’.
Irrespective of the constitutional provision for the independence of the three arms of government and the efforts of the Buhari administration to promote this in governance, the legislature and the judiciary in states are still battling to remain independent, reports have shown.
A survey across the states shows that the judiciary and the legislature still depend on the executive arm of the state government for their survival.
The Speaker of the House of Assembly in Ondo State Bamidele Oleyelogun, said that although the process of becoming autonomous had been initiated, the House had been waiting for Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu for final endorsement.
Oloyelogun said that all arrangements had been made and necessary documents required from the legislative arm of government for full implementation of autonomy of the judiciary and the legislature had been submitted to the executive.
Oleyelogun, said “much now depends on the executive arm of government for full implementation’’.
However, a lawyer, Mr Seun Sogbeso, said that state governments had not given both legislative and judiciary arms of government free hand to operate.
Sogbeso said that every government would always want to be in charge of the two arms of government, adding: “it is hard to see the arms of government being free’’.
Similarly, in Ogun, the Speaker of the Assembly, Olakunle Oluomo, said that the implementation of financial autonomy for the state legislature had yet to be implemented in the state.
Corroborating Oluomo, the Chairman of the Ogun chapter of the Nigeria Bar Association, Mr Olu Alade, admitted that the law had to be put into effect.
In spite of this, he noted that since the constitution had granted autonomy and the president had demonstrated willingness and determination to implement it, autonomy would soon be operational.
In Ekiti State, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr Funmiyi Afuye, said that the state was still in the various stages of implementation of the 2018 Act which supported autonomy for the state’s assembly.
Also speaking, the Deputy Chief Registrar of the State High Court, Mr Ariyibi Apuabi, said that the judiciary arm of government in the state had yet to enjoy autonomy.
Apuabi, however, disclosed that a committee had been set up to hasten its implementation for the judiciary.
Reviewing the situation of the implementation, Mr Kayode Martins, the Chairman of Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) in Oyo State, accused governors of frustrating the implementation process, adding that a presidential executive order would fast track the process.
He said that the national body of the body was doing everything possible to ensure that the president issues an executive order on autonomy.
In the same vein, the Deputy Majority Leader of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Mr Kunle Akande, admitted that the executive had yet to grant financial autonomy to the assembly.
Akande, however, said that efforts towards the financial autonomy for the assembly had started that would be completed soon.
Lawmakers in Kwara State believe that the legislature has been enjoying autonomy without interference by the executive in its affairs.
The Chairman of Kwara House of Assembly Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Judiciary, AbdulGaniyu Salaudeen, said that the legislature would continue to remain independent to achieve the desired result.
Some lawyers in the state, however, argued that without financial autonomy, no institution or establishment of government could be totally free from interference.
In the North-Central part of the country, reports show that some states, especially, in Benue, Plateau and Kogi, have yet to begin the implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary and the legislature.
However, reports indicate that there is partial implementation of the directive in Nasarawa State and the Niger.
The Speaker, Benue State House of Assembly, Mr Titus Uba, said that the state judiciary and the legislature had yet to be granted autonomy, but that the process had started.
The Chief Registrar, Plateau State Judiciary, Mrs Ladi Madaki, said that the bill or template on the issue had passed second reading at the State House of Assembly.
“Until and unless it is passed in to law by the House, we can’t have a functional and effective independent judiciary,’’ he said.
The Chief Registrar of Kogi High Court, Mr Yahaya Ademu, said: “we are still operating the old system; we are still receiving subventions from the state government. The last we received was that of July salary.
“The problem is from the Federal Government. The committee has submitted its report; we are waiting for the presidential directive. I think that is what is delaying it’’.
The Nasarawa State House of Assembly Clerk, Mr Ego Maikeffi, said that the financial autonomy of the Assembly had yet to begin.
“A bill for a Law to Provide for Self Accounting of the state House of Assembly has been passed by the fifth assembly but was not signed into law by the immediate past governor of the state.
“We have been receiving our monthly subvention that is salary and overhead as we had been doing in the previous years from the executive,’’ he said.
The Chief Judge of Niger State, Mr Aliyu Mayaki, also noted that the state judiciary enjoyed partial financial autonomy.
According to him, the head of courts no longer have to go cap-in-hands to the governor asking him for funds.
He attributed many of the infrastructure development and reform of the state judiciary to the partial autonomy it enjoyed.
In Cross River, the Registrar of the state judiciary Mr Edem Okokon, said: “nothing has been done to actualise the Federal Government’s directives on the implementation of financial autonomy of the judiciary.
“We have yet to receive any document from the Federal Government to that effect, maybe it is due to normal government bureaucracy.’’
Similarly, the immediate past Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Mr Kabiru Adjoto, said: “I can tell you that we enjoyed a substantial level of compliance in Edo, especially as it regards funding.
“The parliament got what it wanted from the government in terms of fund based on budget performance.’’
In his view, the Chairman, Ikorodu Branch of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) in Lagos State, Mr Bayo Akinlade, said that major issues, including salaries of judges, magistrates and high ranking civil servants as well as building of infrastructure, were still handled by the executive arm.
“There is partial compliance with the law as to the financial autonomy of the judiciary as I observed in Lagos State.
“Monies are still paid into government accounts and go through a lot of bureaucratic structures for release; that is why we have courts with no fans, no air conditioners, bad generators and minimal chairs not sufficient for the lawyers and the litigants to seat,’’ Akinlade said.
A member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr Tunde Braimoh, noted that there was the need for compliance.
But the Chief Registrar, High Court of Justice, Gombe State, Mr Abdulsalam Jatau,said that financial autonomy had yet to be implemented in the state.
According to him, every requirement of the judiciary is being taken care of by the executive in terms of training, basic office facilities and maintenance of the courts.
He, however, expressed optimism that financial autonomy for the judiciary would help to address some of their challenges.
“The condition of our courts is pathetic, especially area and magistrates’ courts; we will do everything humanly possible to address these problems,’’ he said.
Also, The Acting Chief Register, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar in Yobe State, said: “all judiciary finances come from the executives, meaning they have powers or control over the judiciary,’’
Abubakar added that another major constraint that affected the autonomy of the judiciary was the role the executives played in the appointment of chief judge.
Sharing similar sentiments, the Adamawa branch chairman of Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), Alhaji Baba Gurin, said that the judiciary in the state was waiting for the implementation of the autonomy.
Mr Solomon Kumangar, the Director-General, Media and Communication to Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State, said that the governor was committed to the autonomy and is working towards that.
The Director of the El-Kanemi Peace and Development Centre, Mr Grema Kyari, observed that there ought to be community advocacy and mobilisation to facilitate successful implementation of the implementation of financial autonomy to state legislature and judiciary.
“Awareness creation on civic right is necessary to stem the undemocratic trend and guarantee autonomy for the legislature,’’ Kyari said.
All in all, Nigerians insist that stakeholders should ensure that the implementation of financial autonomy to state legislature and judiciary is effective to strengthen democracy.
Olaitan is of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Umahi Announces Plan To Appoint 800 New Aides
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State has announced his plan to appoint 800 aides, in addition to the 4,000 appointments already made by his administration.
Umahi said this last Monday in Abakaliki when he met with members of the state Executive Council, state House of Assembly, Local Government Area Chairmen and all the new appointees, among other stakeholders.
The governor said that in spite of an initial 185 Executive Assistants (EAs), Senior Technical Assistants (STAs) and Technical Assistants (TAs), he made an additional 200 similar appointments last Monday.
He said: “We would be getting about 800 EAs, STAs and TAs by the end of this meeting and from this moment, the task of making similar appointments is taken from me and given to the people from the ward level.
“This means that we will appoint three more TAs from each ward of the state and the stakeholders will sit and nominate two, while the party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will nominate one.
“The criterion used was that not all the past appointees returned but 80 per cent of the appointments included former appointees, especially those who did well.”
He said that the EXCO met last Monday and approved the remuneration of the new appointees, because it was in its power to do so.
“The EAs will receive N150,000 (N100,000 salary and N50, 000 for overhead costs), while the STAs will receive N120,000 (N80,000 salaries and N40, 000 for overhead cost).
“The TAs will receive N100 (N70,000 salaries and N30,000) for overhead cost.
“We would approach the House of Assembly on the issue of liaison officers, to bring their salaries to N60,000 in order to create additional ones, especially for women (widows).
“We intend to have two liaison officers in the wards, one for men and one for women and if you add party executives at the ward level, we will have about 4,000 appointees,” he said.
The governor said that the essence of the appointments was to encourage the people to contribute to the development of the state.
“Anyone that would be appointed would have something doing, at least possess one hectare of farmland, which will be adequately profiled.
“The development centre coordinators will ensure adequate supervision of schools and ensure that all ‘out of school children’ are in school, ” he said.
Commissioner for Special Projects, Mr Ikechukwu Nwobo, who spoke on behalf of the stakeholders, thanked the governor for convening the meeting.
Nwobo assured the governor that they would always partner with him in the task of developing the state.
“The stakeholders will ensure that the right people are nominated so that the wheel of progress in the state is sustained,” he said.
INEC Expresses Worries Over Possible Violence In Kogi
The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Kogi State, Prof. James Apam, yesterday, expressed worries over possible violence during the November 16 governorship election in the state.
Apam disclosed this at the unveiling of “Get Out The Vote (GOTV), Voter Education and Stop Violence Against Women In Politics (STOP VAWIP)” campaign projects and multi-stakeholders’ meeting, in Lokoja.
He said that INEC had, on several occasions, prepared to conduct credible elections and would have always put necessary machinery in place to ensure free, fair and acceptable elections only for such elections to be disrupted by violence.
The REC said that the commission intended to correct the flaws identified in past elections during the forthcoming election, saying: “we intend to correct them and make this one a test case for elections in this country.
“INEC is doing everything possible to organise free, fair and credible governorship election in November. We have met with traditional rulers and other stakeholders in the state on the way forward.
“People always blame INEC when there is problem, but the truth of the matter is that in most cases, the electorate and politicians are responsible for the problems.
“Yes, on our part, we normally encounter some problems but I can assure you that some of these problems will be solved before, during and after election. Our main worry has always been violence.
“You spent a lot of time to prepare for elections, putting resources together, training men and women for the exercise.
“You send them to the field for the exercise and all of a sudden, someone with a gun appears and starts shooting and before you know what is happening, everything has been disrupted.”
Apam, therefore, enjoined parents, especially women, to help talk to their children and wards on the need to eschew violence, adding that with absence of violence, there would be massive turnout during the election and the exercise would be hitch-free.
The REC also urged the electorate to conduct themselves in an orderly manner before and during the election to enhance smooth exercise.
2021 Anambra Poll: Rep Declares Guber Aspiration
Member representing Nnewi North/Nnewi South/Ekwusigo Federal Constituency in Anambra State Mr Chris Azubuogu, has formally declared his ambition to contest the 2021 governorship poll in the state.
Azubuogu made the declaration at a meeting of the stakeholders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Awka.
He said he was offering himself for the job, having provided quality representation to his people.
The three-time lawmaker said he had all it took to make Anambra great again, adding that the victory for PDP in the 2021 governorship election would be better assured with him.
Azubuogu urged PDP to zone the governorship slot to Anambra South for fairness and equity.
He said: “As the highest ranking lawmaker of PDP in Anambra South, I want to ask that the ticket of PDP be ceded to Anambra South Senatorial District.
“Zoning the governorship ticket of PDP to Anambra south is one decision that can help the party to achieve victory in 2021.”
His appeal was coming against the backdrop of resolve of the South-East leadership of PDP that it was not considering zoning its governorship ticket to any senatorial district.
Chief Austine Umahi, the South-East National Vice Chairman of the party, recently said that the 2021 governorship poll in Anambra was crucial to the party.
He said that PDP was determined to recapture the state.
“We are going for the right candidate, irrespective of where the person comes from,” Umahi said.
But, a chieftain of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Jude Emecheta told newsmen that the attitude of the PDP to zoning in Anambra was simply a mind game.
Emecheta, who is the President of Willie Obiano Support Groups applauded his party for ceding the ticket to Anambra south.
He described the decision as a great asset to APGA and its chances for victory in 2021.
He urged Anambra politicians to respect the zoning arrangement which, he said, favoured Anambra south in the next election.
“It is no longer in doubt that APGA leadership both at the national and state levels have said the party’s ticket for governorship election must go to south.
“For every politician in Anambra, zoning is a moral burden. If you don’t zone this ticket to the south, you are introducing chaos into the Anambra political environment.
“Anambra is a peaceful state, we are people that cherish orderliness and it would be wrong to distort it now, so I think PDP is not sincere with their pronouncement.
“The truth is that announcing zoning now will shut some people out and those people will likely decamp.
“The south has the capacity to get the governorship. We have capable hands, financial capacity, intellectual capacity and eminently qualified people,” he said.
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