By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari Friday in Abuja inaugurated a presidential committee on state legislative and judicial autonomy to ensure the realisation and effectiveness of the autonomy of both institutions as enshrined in the constitution.
Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) grants the legislature and the judiciary in each of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) autonomy with a view to enhancing their independence from the stranglehold of the executive arm of government.
The committee which has the responsibility of coming up with measures aimed at achieving the required level of autonomy by the two arms of government has three months to conclude its assignment and report its findings to the president.
While inaugurating the committee in the State House Friday, Buhari said constituting the committee had become compelling in view of the realisation that legislative and judicial autonomy is a precursor for Nigeria’s democratic growth.
Buhari said the decision to constitute the committee was also necessitated by the need to strengthen democracy and guarantee the principle of separation of powers among the three arms of government in Nigeria at the state levels. According to him, the decision was also propelled by the need to ensure the sustenance of federal system of government as enshrined in the constitution “by building capabilities not only at the federal level but at all the federating units.”
The president who said the committee would be chaired by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, as the secretary, added that the committee had been constituted as a major reform initiative of the federal government.
He also said the government’s driving force was the need to ensure that the autonomy granted the legislature and judiciary at the state levels by the recent amendment to the 1999 Constitution as contained in Section 161, is effective.
Disclosing that the committee would be saddled with the responsibility of ensuring effective implementation of the autonomy granted the state legislature and judiciary by the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Buhari said guaranteeing such autonomy would give room for proper checks and balances which he said would enable the two arms of government to discharge their responsibilities without fear or favour.
The president also said ensuring that both the legislature and the judiciary discharge their responsibilities with a sense of freedom was imperative because of their distinct characteristics, noting that the legislature is the closest arm of government to the people while the judiciary is the last hope of the common man.
He tasked the committee to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders in the pursuit of its assignment as he listed the terms of its reference to include: assessing and reviewing the level of compliance by all the 36 states of the federation and the FCT with Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Other terms of reference of the committee as highlighted by the president are:
“To monitor, ensure and cause the implementation of Financial Autonomy across the Judiciary and Legislature of the 36 States of the Federation and the FCT in accordance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended) and other applicable laws, instruments,regulations , and Conventions howsoever providing for financial autonomy for the legislature and judiciary at the state tier of government;
“To consult and relate with the appropriate Federal and State MDAs, including but not limited to the Governors’ Forum, Accountant General of the Federation and those of the states, the National Economic Council and other institutions of state to ensure and where necessary, enforce the implementation of Constitutional provisions;
“To come up with appropriate modalities or model to be adopted by all the States of the Federation for implementation and/or compliance with Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended);
“To advice on other measures that are deemed necessary or incidental to the fulfilment of the aims of the Committee to attain the full purport of this assignment.”