By Rotimi Ojomoyela
The Vice-Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum(NGF), and the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, has accused President Muhammadu Buhari of overreaching himself on the executive order 10 that canvassed judicial and legislative autonomies for States.
Tambuwal posited that the Nigerian Governors’ forum expected President Buhari to have consulted widely before issuing the order, saying exercising such powers unilaterally was tantamount to illegality.
The People’s Democratic Party Governor corrected the erroneous impression that the 36 governors were vehemently opposed to judicial and legislative autonomy.
Tambuwal spoke in Ado Ekiti on Wednesday during an Attorney General’s Colloquium organized by the Ekiti State Ministry of Justice Academy, in honour of the retiring Chief Judge of the State, Justice Ayodeji Daramola.
Speaking on the topic: ‘The Judicial Autonomy: Perspective of the Nigerian Governor Forum’, Tambuwal said Buhari was allegedly Ill -advised in issuing the order that craved judicial autonomy for States, adding that such illegal voyage undermined the powers of the governors.
He said: “Nigeria in Section 121(3) provides that: “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 to the heads of the courts concerned.”
“As Governors of the 36 States under the platform of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), let me state very clearly that we are unequivocally committed to the autonomy of the judiciary and the legislature.
“The recent misunderstanding on the financial autonomy of the Judiciary is predicated on the need to establish an implementation framework to the 4th Alteration of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Section 121(3). What we have questioned, and we have made this known at every opportunity, is the process of implementing this provision of the Constitution.
“As Governors, we will be failing in our responsibility if we refuse to draw the attention of the President, stakeholders and the country to grave concerns about the constitutionality of Executive Order 10 of 2020. That was the basis of the position that we took on the Executive Order 10.
“The Executive Order 10 ostensibly intended to support the implementation of judicial financial autonomy, was completely unnecessary and ill advised. Let me at this juncture state clearly that we never questioned the right of Mr. President to issue Executive Orders. We only stated that S.121(3) did not require Presidential Executive Fiat to become implementable”.
Tambuwal expressed delight that consensus has finally been reached on the autonomy conundrum and opined that the strike is expected to be suspended anytime soon.
” The agreement allows a period of 45 days for implementation structures to be put in place across States including the enactment of a Fund Management Law which will grant the Judiciary the power to manage its capital and recurrent expenditures in accordance with the provisions of constitution.
“Budgetary releases to the judiciary will be pro-rated based on the actual revenues recorded each month by the State government. Monthly revenue reconciliation and allocation will be presided over by a State Account Allocation Committee (SAAC) to be set up under the Fund Management Law – a similar practice to what we have at the federal level.
“We hope that this will put an end to the long weeks of strike action that have seen our judicial and criminal justice system grounded to a halt. We have lost so much in the past weeks. The big takeaway is the centrality of communication, sincerity, trust and dialogue.
“We have requested that the President disbands the Presidential Implementation Committee on the Autonomy of State Legislature and Judiciary, to avert future rancor between the various arms of government, arising from misconceived guidance from a committee lacking the requisite understanding of constitutional matters”.
Also lending his voice, the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, stated that the issue of judicial and legislative autonomies is advantageous , saying the governors also have limitations based on constitutional provisions .
Fayemi said : “Who is to take capital spending for the judiciary and legislature has always been the controversy. The governors will continue to hold our judiciary with reverence, because In know that this democracy will not endure, if we subject our judiciary to the jackboots of the executive.
“There is no questioning the fact that we can do a lot more for our judiciary to make it truly independent”.
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Saluting the commitment and industry of the retiring Justice Daramola , Fayemi said: “We extracted Ekiti laws from the old Ondo State Laws under him. The review of our rules of court, the Civil procedure rule and the Administration of Criminal Justice were all undertaken under his watch . He has been a blessing to Ekiti judiciary”.
In his contributions, the CJ of Ekiti State, Justice Ayodeji Daramola, said judicial autonomy is as old as the 1999 constitution, saying the section 121 (3) was simple and should be respected by state governors .
“If our monies are paid directly, we will utilise it judiciously more than it were being spent for us by the executive. The governors must allow the judiary and legislature to be run like the National Assembly.
“Nigerian judges are the most hardworking in the world . How can our salaries be there for 15 years without upward review? This is the highest point of injustice ever”.
In his submission, the Attorney General and the Commissioner for Justice, said the programme is targeted at rescuing the justice system from all its sicknesses.