Financial autonomy: State Assemblies’ prayers answered through Buhari – Obasa

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.’Executive Order for checks and balances’

..’It depends on funds to states from FG’

IBRAHIM QUADRI, Lagos, DAMISI OJO, Akure, and SIKIRU OBARAYESE, Osogbo

Reactions have continued to trail the Presidential Executive Order granting financial autonomy to both the legislature and the judiciary across the country, with some Nigerians lauding the action while others said it is not yet Uhuru as everything will depend on the availability of money to the states.

President Muhammadu Buhari, penultimate Friday, signed into law an Executive Order to grant financial autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary across the 36 states of the country.

The order also mandated the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct from source amount due to state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocation to each state for states that refuse to grant such autonomy.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said these in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Umar Gwandu.

Malami said the Executive Order No. 10 of 2020, made it mandatory that all states of the federation should include the allocations of both the legislature and the judiciary in the first-line charge of their budgets.

The order also makes it mandatory for the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct the amounts due to state legislature and judiciary from monthly allocations of states that refuse to implement the order.

 Reacting to this, Speakers of the State Houses of Assembly, under the auspices of the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures in Nigeria, have described the approval of financial autonomy granted its members by President Buhari as the best Sallah gift from the latter.

The Chairman of the Conference of Speakers, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa  of the Lagos State House of Assembly, said this in a statement released on Saturday adding that the body was excited over action of the President.

“No doubt, this order will further make state legislatures independent of the executive arm of their various governments. It would also boost healthy competitions among state legislatures in pursuit of advancements and developments.

“This is the best gift the President, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, has given the legislative arms of state governments at this Sallah. And coming at the end of the Ramadan, it means God truly answered the prayers of the member state legislatures through the President”, Obasa, who is a member of the implementation committee on the financial autonomy set up by the President, said.

The committee had the mandate to ensure the implementation of the financial autonomy in line with section 121(3) of the country’s constitution as amended.

Commending the members of the implementation committee for putting in their best and meeting its mandate, Obasa urged the various state beneficiaries of the Executive Order by President Buhari to see it as a further push to unite the country and play roles for its growth, peace and progress.

The Speaker thanked the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) led by Governor Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State for its support during the events and meetings leading to a final decision of the President.

Obasa also thanked the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, for his roles that eventually resulted in the signing of the order by President Buhari just as he commended his colleagues in the various Houses of Assembly for their steadfastness at all times.

Also a frontline lawyer and rights activist in Akure, the Ondo State capital, Charles Titiloye, said the issue of financial autonomy for Judiciary and legislative arm of Government is an important cardinal point in the entrenchment of constitutional government in Nigeria.

According to the former Secretary of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Akure Branch, there is no way to entrench checks and balances in the arm of Government where the judiciary and legislature are not autonomous.

He said the over centralisation of finance and all powers on the executive arm of Government in Nigeria has weakened the country’s democratic growth.

Titiloye noted that this reform is not only salutary but one of the best policies ever implemented by this government at the state level.

However, a lawmaker in the State Assembly, Hon. Gbenga Omole, who is also the Chairman, House Committee on Information, said he needed to consult with the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Bamidele Oleyelogun before he could react to the issue.

Speaking withDaily Champion, a state lawmaker opined that the financial autonomy will still depend on the availability of resources of the state and the Federal Government.

Another lawmaker, who applauded Buhari for the development, said the principles of checks and balances can now be in full operation without interference from any angle.

The Speaker of Osun State House Assembly, Timothy Owoeye, described the Executive Order as victory for democracy, adding that with the legislative and judiciary being independent will usher new order to the Nigeria governance and Judiciary arm.

In an interview, the spokesperson for the speaker, Kunle Alabi, said:  “The principles of the separation of power and check and balances will now be in full operation. Nigerians should be expecting more development as the operation commenced.”

In another interview with another state lawmaker, Kunle Akande, the Chairman, House Committee on Information and Public Affairs for Osun House of Assembly also hailed the President for the new development, saying it will deepen democracy the more.

However, Akande, who is also the Deputy Majority leader of the Osun Assembly, said he has reservations that the “judiciary or the legislative should not jubilate because you can only spend the money you have.”

According to him, the availability of resources will still be a determinant factor in whatever the two arms of government will spend.

“I cannot say Hallelujah because basically, what will be given to each arm of the government will be depending on the availability of resources from the state and the Federal Government. It is not overdue and it will free the arms of the government from the executive. Free in the sense that they will be able to carry out their functions without any interference from the state. But by and large, they may still have reason to consult the state when the need arises.

“The local governments were full of joy when they got their autonomy. But barely a month after, many of the urban local government areas found it difficult to meet their financial obligations. They couldn’t pay salaries let alone infrastructural development. I have a conscious feeling that it is not yet grow rather for judiciary or legislative.

“We cannot know what will happen; until we begin to see in operation then we can know if this step is better than the old step. But right now, we will continue to do our job.” he said.

In his own view, a senior lawyer, Barrister Dawood Ajetunmobi, disclosed that the new financial freedom for the judiciary will strengthen the arm.

He said: “It is a good thing that has ever happened to the judiciary and the legislative arms in Nigeria, because from the memorial, it had been described in the Constitution that is a separation of power for Judiciary, Executive and Legislative, but those things have only been in Constitution but not in reality.

“For the President to come with the Executive Order that legislative and judiciary are financially independent is a very good thing because it will make them to do their constitutional duty without favour or fear”.

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