Govs Undertake to Implement Financial Autonomy for Legislature

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Ike Ekweremadu

Deji Elumoye and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

State governors have undertaken to implement financial autonomy for state legislature and judiciary as provided by the Nigerian Constitution.

This is coming as the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to support the creation of state police as a panacea to the rising security concerns across the country.

The state chief executives made the pledge under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) at the opening session of a two-day conference on the implementation of the initiative held Thursday in Abuja.

The provision of financial autonomy to the two arms of government was contained in the constitutional amendment assented to last year by the president.

Speaking at the event, the Chairman of the NGF and Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, said the governors will collaborate with the federal government to ensure the implementation of the law.

Yari who was represented at the event by Bauchi State Governor, Mohammed Abubakar, said the autonomy of the legislature and the judiciary is very key to sustainable development of the country.

“I totally aligned with the motion that the legislature and judiciary autonomy is a necessary precondition for an enduring democracy. This enhances efficiency, transparency and accountability in government,” he said

The Zamfara State governor also assured that “the state governors are collectively committed to the enthronement of a strong and virile democracy in Nigeria and would work with the federal government to achieve the national implementation strategy and ultimately ensure full autonomy of the legislature and judiciary at sub-national levels.”

He said the governors are in support of President Buhari’s reform agenda as well as his passion for transparency and zero tolerance for corruption.

Also speaking at the event, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State emphasised that the autonomy of the legislature and judiciary will strengthen democracy.

According to Ortom, Nigerians must learn to respect their constitution, adding that, “Once laws are in place, we have no choice but to comply because that is the only thing that will lead us to a greater height. If we refuse to obey our laws, then we are calling for chaos and anarchy and when anarchy comes nobody will be safe. So, I welcome this retreat because at the end of the day, all of us will take something home.”

Also the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, assured that the report and recommendations of the retreat will be submitted to the president.

He said the states are expected to immediately commence implementation of the resolutions of the retreat.

“We are impressed by the attendance. Out of 36 states, 34 of the chief judges of the federation are here, and 31 speakers are also here in person, while the rest of them are presented at this conference,” he said.

Enang, who is also the secretary of the panel, said that one of immediate outcomes of the new reform is that the judiciary will be able to deliver justice without fear or favour.

“Money due to the judiciary will go to the account of the judiciary directly and money due to the legislature will go to the account of the legislature directly.

“Finally, it is intended to ensure that money for the judiciary is not spent on the judiciary or on the judiciary but it is spent by the judiciary for the judiciary and on the judiciary and the same goes for the legislature,” he said.

On his part, Ekweremadu urged President Buhari to support the creation of state police as a panacea to the rising security concerns across the country.

He blamed the rising security challenges on unitary police system prescribed by the constitution.

He noted that the best options was not to run away from decentralised policing, which ensured the security of the people and their property up to 1966, but to ensure appropriate checks in terms of recruitment, appointment of police chiefs, control, logistics, funding, among others, to guide against possible abuse by state governors as feared by some.

He recommended the establishment of a National Police Service Commission (NPSC) to exercise a level of oversight over the activities of the state police such as maintaining common facilities for all police services in the country, including training, criminal intelligence data bases, forensic laboratories, among others.

“The NPSC should also run a system of inspectorates and certification such as supervision of recruitment, training, supervision of standards, and annual certification of every State Police Service.

“There should also be a body known as State Police Service Commission for the states and should comprise a representative of the executive to be appointed by the Governor, representative of the Federal Government to be appointed by the NPSC, two independent experts in security matters to be appointed by the Governor subject to confirmation by the State House of Assembly, and a representative each of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress.

“Others are a retired police officer not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police, representative of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), representative of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), representatives of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and other relevant civil organisations, as the case may be. The body should be responsible for the recruitment, appointment and disciplining of the members of the state police force.

“Importantly, the funding of the state police should be a first line charge on the state account or it can be deducted at source from the Federation Account and paid to the Police Service Commission for onward disbursement to the respective State Police Service Commissions.

“There should be an Act of the National Assembly stipulating the type of arms that can be acquired by a sub-national police and also unacceptable conducts, which can lead to the sanction of a sub-national police command”, he added.

On affordability, he explained that state police would not be compulsory as those who have the resources could establish one, while those who could not afford would continue to rely on the federal police until they were able to establish one.

“The important thing is to lay down the legal frameworks that authorise and regulate decentralised policing so that those who can afford it can start, hence I urge Mr. President to lend his political will and weight to the quest for decentralised policing”, Ekweremadu explained.

He further stated that “our constitution contradicts, in several respects, the basic principles of democracy such as the separation of powers, checks and balances, and compromises the independence of the critical institutions of democracy.

“This is why the National Assembly has, starting from 2010, successfully altered the constitution to strengthen the principles of separation of powers, checks and balance, and indeed our democracy and good governance by placing the National Assembly, INEC, and most recently, the State Houses of Assembly and Judiciary on first line charge”.

He, however cautioned state assemblies that the autonomy was not a license to appropriate whatever they liked to their respective assemblies and the states judiciary, but a recognition of the prioritisation of the release of their funds in the appropriation law of their respective states.

He described the local government as the weakest link in the governance structure and urged the state assemblies to approve the Constitution Amendment Bills that seek to strengthen the councils as a third tier of government.