By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Governors, yesterday, gave support to the implementation of financial autonomy of states legislature and judiciary.
The governors, under the umbrella of Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, said they will ensure Nigeria attains the highest level of transparency and openness in governance.
Speaking at the opening of a two-day conference on the implementation of autonomy of state legislature and state judiciary in Abuja, Chairman of NGF, Abdulaziz Yari, pledged the cooperation of the governors with the Federal Government to achieve the implementation strategy and ultimately ensure full autonomy of the legislature and judiciary at sub-national levels.
Yari, who is the governor of Zamfara State, was represented by Bauchi State governor, Mohammed Abubakar.
He said though Nigeria’s democracy was 20 years old, it had not been a smooth sail, even as he commended the current administration’s focus on ensuring that rough as the journey might be, it will surely take Nigeria to the promised land.
He said autonomy of the legislature and the judiciary were among the conditions for sustainable democracy.
Yari said: “I totally align with the motion that the legislature and judiciary autonomy is necessary pre-condition for an enduring democracy. This enhances efficiency, transparency and accountability in government.
“May I also assure you that the state governors are collectively committed to the enthronement of a strong and viral democracy in Nigeria and would work with the Federal Government to achieve the national implementation strategy and ultimately ensure full autonomy of the legislature and judiciary at sub-national levels.
“The NGF fully supports Mr President’s reform agenda and shares his passion for transparency and zero corruption. We commend the efforts of the committee in putting together this very decisive conference to see that Nigeria attains the highest level of transparency and openness in governance.”
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, commended Buhari for his assent to the bill, noting that autonomy was central to the practice of democracy, especially the separation of powers
On his part, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said local government areas needed to be strengthened and urged state assemblies to act fast.
He also advocated state police, thanking the federal government for its interest in the implementation of the law.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), who is also the secretary of the panel, Ita Enang, commended those who attended the conference.
He said: “We are impressed by the attendance. Of 36 states, 34 of the chief judges of states of the federation are here, and 31 speakers are also here in person, while the rest of them are represented at this conference.
“The report and recommendation of the retreat will be submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari and the implementation at the state level will start immediately in the next one week after the resolution of this retreat.”
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, on his part, said autonomy of both legislature and judiciary will strengthen democracy.
He said: “I appreciate Mr President for setting up the implementation committee. The executive, legislature and judiciary are all here and so issues that pertain to implementation will be resolved right here and then we can pick up successfully.
Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, PLAC, Clement Nwankwo, described as dangerous a situation where the legislature was crippled and unable to function.
He said: “A situation where the legislature which actually makes the distinction between democracy and dictatorship are crippled and made unable to function worsens the reality that democracy represents. And I think it is very commendable that the National Assembly took the initiative.
“I’m delighted that the chairman of the committee on constitution review in the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who has been prominent in taking this lead in getting this passed as well as the speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, have done so much to ensure that several provisions of the constitution were amended.
“Unfortunately only a few clauses of what the National Assembly passed were assented to by Mr President but this is very critical in terms of strengthening our democracy. That our legislature is able to function as an independent arm of government, able to moderate the excesses of the executive, particularly at the state level where the development and the transparency of government are very limited.’’