Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal said President Muhammadu Buhari is not well advised to issue the contentious Executive Order No 10 which seeks financial autonomy of the judicial arm of government. Tambuwal who is the Vice Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), at a colloquium organised by the Ekiti State Ministry of Justice Academy in honour of the retiring Chief Judge of the State, Justice Ayodeji Daramola, said state governors are not opposed to the independence of the judiciary or the autonomy of the local government.
The Judicial Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) has, for over one month now, called its members on strike, which has paralysed court activities throughout the country. But Tambuwal, who also doubles as Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors’ Forum, said the governors expected President Buhari to consult widely before issuing the order.
He argued that exercising such powers by the president unilaterally was tantamount to illegality. “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 No. 10 of 2020. That was the basis of the position that we took on the Executive Order No.10. “The Executive Order No. 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 the Presidential Executive Fiat to become implementable,” Tambuwal explained. The governor called on President Buhari to disband the Presidential Implementation Committee on the Autonomy of State Legislature and Judiciary so as to avert future rancour between the various arms of government, adding that the committee lacks the requisite understanding of constitutional matters.
The Sokoto State governor expressed happiness that a consensus has finally been reached on the matter of judicial autonomy. According to him, “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 the constitution.
“Budgetary releases to the judiciary will be prorated 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.
The former Speaker of the House of Representatives added that the issuance of Executive Order No. 10 undermined the powers of the governors. The host governor, Kayode Fayemi, stated that the issue of judicial and legislative autonomies is advantageous, saying the governors also have limitations based on constitutional provisions. Fayemi, who is NGF Chairman, argued that 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 I 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,” he said. Ekiti State Chief Judge, Justice Ayodeji Daramola, said judicial autonomy is as old as the 1999 constitution, and called on state governors to respect section 121 (3) of the Nigeria constitution. “If our monies are paid directly, we will utilise it judiciously more than if it were being spent for us by the executive.
The governors must allow the judiciary 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,” Justice Daramola argued.