- We don’t know their grouse with a duly made law on autonomy for legislature and judiciary
One intriguing fallout from the ongoing nationwide strike of judiciary workers must be seen in the attempt by the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) to make President Muhammadu Buhari’s Executive Order 10 as the main issue. Speaking on the issue on behalf of the forum last week, Plateau State governor Simon Lalong, insisted that not only is the Executive Order 10 not required for the implementation of the financial autonomy, he also made it known that the governors were not consulted before the president enacted the order. Saying that the attainment of autonomy is a process that cannot be enforced by the mere enactment of Executive Order, he further insisted that the issue would be resolved through dialogue.
That position, in the opinion of this newspaper, is both opportunistic and diversionary. In the first place, that matter, already settled, is a constitutional one requiring no further negotiation. The issue is that it’s been nearly three years since President Buhari assented the Constitution Fourth Alteration Bill which grants financial autonomy and independence to states Houses of Assembly and their judiciaries (President’s assent was in June 2018).
Secondly, the order, cited as “the implementation of financial autonomy for state legislature and judiciary Order, 2020,” was not enacted until May 2020, that is, nearly two years after that milestone amendment became part of the nation’s organic law. The purport of the order was to enforce the amendment by granting the Accountant-General of the Federation powers to deduct from the allocations due to a state from the Federation Account, any sums appropriated for the legislature or judiciary of that state which the state fails to release to its legislature or judiciary as the case may be, and to pay the funds directly to the state’s legislature or judiciary concerned.
The above is however not to deny some grounds on which aspects of the order might be deemed rather expansive, to put it mildly. Indeed, while it seems doubtful that the president can, via an executive order, direct states on matters contained in the Concurrent Legislative list, even more doubtful is whether an order dictating to the states, going as far as to threaten to manage the funds accruing to them in the consolidated revenue of the federation could be deemed to be lawful.
But then, those issues are separate from the amendment as already incorporated into the nation’s organic law and which the governors were sworn to uphold. Obviously, had they shown fidelity to an amendment they claim to have supported, or demonstrated good faith by subsequently setting in motion the necessary processes for its implementation in good time, not only would the executive order have been rendered superfluous, the ensuing strike which resulted from it and which has paralysed the work of the judiciary nationwide, would have been ordinarily, unthinkable.
That the governors chose to dither on something as fundamental as implementing a provision of the constitution that came by way of an amendment is not only regrettable, it amounts to an intolerable dereliction of duty. That it happened can only be explained by greed and lust for power – a case of their unwillingness to let go of their control of another branch of government. So, rather than split needless hairs over the executive order, what should be uppermost in the minds of the governors now is how to implement a law that has been part of our statutes in the last 34 months so that normalcy could return in earnest to that important arm of government.