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)
Political Space Is Only For Parties Ready To Take Power – Okoye
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC’s), Festus Okoye, national Commissioner on Information and Voter Education has reminded Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) that political space is meant for political parties that are ready to take power, maintaining that political associations can exist, mobilise, build structures before seeking registration, as soon as they get registered they must be ready to take power.
Okoye said this while speaking on a local media station after the High Court adjourned hearing in the case filed by 33 political parties under the auspices of IPAC, challenging their deregistration by INEC.
The national commissioner reminded IPAC that as registered political parties, they should be ready to take power, because the space was not for learning, as the electoral body would be prepared to de-register any political partyand relegate it to an association if it found out that the party failed to meet the threshold of its registration, in accordance with the 1999 Constitution.
“The political parties contesting did not meet the terms of their registration, neither did they win elections in their various states, nor met the projections. Two of the parties that went to court, Labour Party and African Democratic Party, were not deregistered. They claimed they had court injunctions and I don’t know what they are doing in court.”
“The spirit and intent of the constitution, is that political associations can exist, mobilize people, build up structures. The moment they come for registration means they are ready to take power. If you are not due for political power, you should not apply for registration, because the political space is not for learning or testing the ground”, he said.
Okoye said that 74 political parties had been deregistered and the deregistion had already taken place.
He maintained that because the 33 political parties that went to court were aware that deregistration had taken place, that was why on 14 February they filed an application in court, asking the court to reverse it.
The INEC official stated that the act had already been completed, that was why the court adjourned till 27 February for accelerated hearing.
IPAC Hails Court Order Restraining INEC From De-Registering 31 Parties
The Inter-Party Adversary Council (IPAC) has described the judgment stopping the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from deregistering political parties as victory for democracy and future generations.
National chairman of the council, Peter Ameh, who made the comment while addressing newsmen shortly after the ruling, said the late Gani Fawehinmi gave the 33 political parties that went to court the courage.
Justice Anwuli Chikere of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in her ruling, said, having failed to counter the application by the applicants, the affected political parties had the legal right, which must be protected.
In an interlocutory motion with suit number FHC/ABJ/ CS/444/19 between Advanced Congress of Democratis (ACD) and two others vs. Attorney-General of the Federation and another (INEC), the applicants had on October 30, 2019, approached the court.
The IPAC chairman insisted that there was no way the commission would have succeeded in the illegality it perpetrated against the parties and the fundamental rights of Nigerians.
“We have every reason to thank everybody who stood against this illegality, especially Okey Raph Nwosu, who, despite his party scaling the deregistration hurdle, still joined in the suit because he believed in democracy.
“We believe in the spirit of the Constitution as stated in Section 40, which gave Nigerians the right to freely belong to any political association, and the Constitution stipulated that no agency of government can restrict that right.
“We started this case since last year when we saw that there was plan to put Nigeria upside down. It is our right to defend the constitution through section 225 to challenge the commission to stop it from taking this illegal action.
“INEC should know that if the interest of a political party is to talk about free education, the party should be allowed. If the interest is to talk about tree planting in the North-East, it should be allowed to continue with it.
Group Advises Women On Increased Participation In Politics
Enugu State chapter of the Nigeria League of Women Voters, has urged women to be very active in politics to avoid marginalisation.
The state chairperson of the league, Mrs Nnenna Anozie made the call in an interview with our source in Enugu yesterday.
was a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) and a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) that aims at empowering women both politically and economically.
She said that the league encouraged women to participate in election; adding that they discovered that in the last elections, many women did not participate either as voters or contestants in the elections.
Anozie said that the organisation aimed creating more awareness on the girl child and for every woman to be aware of her civil rights in the state and the country at large.
The chairperson said the group recently visited one of the girls schools in Enugu where they shared sanitary pads, carried out sensitisation awareness on dangers of drug abuse, rape and others.
”This is one way of giving back to the society as well as empowering our women because knowledge is power. Most of them are not knowledgeable about their rights and how to keep hygiene.
”Many of them are rape victims and they are not opening up because of stigmatisation.
”We want to embark on the sensitisation drive in all the states in the country; hoping that come 2023 most of our women will be equipped to run for political offices both at the local, state and national levels,” she said.
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