By Gabriel Ewepu
The Executive Director, Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani, said: “It is important also in agenda setting they mainstream transparency and accountability, responsive and responsible governance at the legislature, judiciary and imbibe prudent management of resources.
“They must also ensure there is justice in their operation and public participation in the manner in which they conduct their affairs, especially the legislature. So this is a good opportunity to consolidate grassroots democracy because if the states can get it right at the local government level which is also ours.
“We welcome the development of allowing the states’ legislature and judiciary to have autonomy because this is the only to allow the three arms of government that assigned in our constitution-the executive, legislature, and judiciary to function independently and transparently.
“This is the only way we can restore confidence in our democracy because going by the current practice that governors have actually pocked or manipulated and directed the function of the legislature and judiciary, it is not giving hope for people to really have confidence in democracy and democratic governance in Nigeria.
“So this move coincided with what CISLAC has been making to ensure that state legislature and judiciary are independent they have the autonomy to exercise their assigned roles and functions.
“We will be happy if this Executive Order can translate into constitution amendment to guarantee this autonomy because the Executive Order granted by the President has a limitation because we are operating a federal system and the Executive Order may not necessarily succeed because it can be contested.
“The only way it can stay is through a constitutional amendment. If you have a constitutional amendment and empower the states and the judiciary to have autonomy then nobody can challenge it. So the Executive Order can be challenged and be disrespected.”
The Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA, Samson Itodo, described the President’s Executive Order as a symbolic step in support of the financial autonomy of state legislature and judiciary but can be disobeyed by the governors as they have succeeded in doing.
“The President has accepted to the Constitutional Amendment Bill as the first alteration to grant financial autonomy to the legislature and as well as the judiciary. When the President assented to that legislation there were no constitutional amend there are other actions to further operationalize that particular amendment.
“The President issuing a Presidential Order he is issuing it in furtherance to that amendment.
“What is baffling is if the National Assembly has passed an amendment the Constitution is a grand norm and this has been signed into law. How come governors refused to comply with the Constitution? It is completely an aberration of our constitution.
The President cannot amend the constitution. The President issuing an executive order is maybe for a symbolic action to show that the President promotes the autonomy of the legislature and judiciary. In actual fact I think it is really unnecessary because the constitution was already amended.
I would expect that the state houses of the assembly would sue the governors but they didn’t activate their own power to sue the governors to court but they did activate their powers to sue their governors to court instead they are appendages to the Governors and the governors have overbearing influence on the legislators, and they didn’t muster the ball and courage to challenge their governors and that is why. If governors would not obey the constitution is it an executive order they would obey?
The President’s Executive Order is also dangerous precedence because if it would take an executive order for governors to comply with the constitution is actually a threat to constitutional fidelity.
In another reaction, the Convener, Concerned Nigerians, CN, Deji Adeyanju, condemned the action and said the President is in an attempt to amend the constitution with the Executive Order.
“The President giving an Executive Order granting financial autonomy to state legislature and judiciary as noble and commendable as it is, is unconstitutional. It contravenes the provisions of the constitution.
“The President going on to issue Executive order will amount to executive interference in legislative duties in state Houses of Assembly and he does not have such powers. It is a constitutional issue and by amendment anything can be amended. He is in an attempt to amend the constitution.
“There is a clear demarcation and separation of powers within the constitution and it has clearly defined the powers of the legislature in Section 4 as amended and the Constitution went ahead and innumerate the executive powers in Nigeria”, Adeyanju stated.
Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, decried the action of the President and said that “The decision of the President to use an Executive Order to appropriate what the constitution has already provided for, is not only superfluous, it represents the display of a dangerous act that is capable of undermining the grand norm, and put democracy in jeopardy.
“As a matter of serious concern, the people should be wary and the National Assembly should thoroughly investigate this faux pas, as to whether it was done to deliberately to override the constitution, or the Attorney General of the Federation (who advises the President on matters of law) has become grossly incompetent or legally impaired, and should because of this anomaly and many more in the past, tender his apology and resignation.
“For the record, the autonomy of States’ Houses of Assembly and the Judiciary has already been secured in the fourth alterations (2017) by Section 121 (1), (2) and more particularly by sub-section 3 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amend).
“Section 121 of the principal act was altered by substituting for section 3, a new subsection “3” which states or stipulates that : (new 3) any amount standing to the credit of the – (a) House of Assembly of the State; and (b) Judiciary in the consolidated revenue fund of the state shall be paid directly to the said bodies respectively; in the case of the judiciary, such amount shall be paid directly the heads of the courts concerned.”
The Executive Director, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor, commended the President’s Executive Order.
“The President’s Executive Order granting autonomy to State legislatures and judiciary is grand breaking is restoring rebirth of genuinely democratic institutions in the 36 States of Nigeria.
“However, whether this action will be constitutionally acceptable time will tell. Nigerians will celebrate this action because in the absence of proper democratic institutions at the State level, State Governors have become despotic and undemocratic in carrying out their constitutional obligations. No doubt that all efforts to use Constitutional options to reverse this ugly trend in the past failed and the action of President Buhari will be put to test in the next few weeks.
Expectedly there will be jubilation across the Country but certainly the governors will not happy and I will encourage them to take the option of approaching the court to challenge the constitutional validity of Buhari’s decision. The outcome of the court process will help strengthen the democratic debate in the Country”, Ugolor said.