States Agree on Legislature, Judiciary’s Financial Autonomy

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• Funds now to be on first line charge

By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

The judicial and legislative arms of government will henceforth heave a sigh relief from the stranglehold of the executive as the presidency and governors at the weekend in Abuja reached an agreement to place the annual budgets of both arms of government on first line charge.

This resolution was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of a two-day retreat organised by the Presidential Implementation Committee on Autonomy of State Legislature and Judiciary on modalities for the implementation of the financial autonomy granted the two arms of governments in the 36 states by the National Assembly.

The retreat was the fallout of the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari towards the effective implementation of the recent amendments to the constitution which granted financial autonomy to states’ judiciary and legislature.

The communiqué signed by the Chairman of the committee and Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami; the committee secretary and Presidential Liaison to the National Assembly, Senator Ita Enang, and others, stated that Buhari set up the committee following the discovery that the autonomy of the two arms in the states as enshrined in the new amendments to the constitution “was honored by the various state governments, more in breach, than in compliance.”

However, the communiqué stated that the retreat comprising governors and relevant stakeholders resolved that in expression of their commitment to the autonomy of the affected two arms of government, their approved annual budgets should be directly released by the accountant-general of each state to the heads of the affected institutions.

According to the communiqué, the hitherto idea of releasing only the recurrent expenditure to these two arms of government while the capital expenditure remained in the custody of the executive has been abolished.

The communiqué read in part: “At the end of the retreat, participants and stakeholders…Adopt the Budgeting model operating at the Federal level where the sum due to the Judiciary and the Legislature are captured as first line charge in the budget laid before and passed by the Legislature;

“That the budget proposal of the Legislature and Judiciary should be defended before the relevant Committees of the Legislature;

“That the total sum, both capital and recurrent, approved in the annual budget of the state, be released monthly on a pro–rata basis by the Accountant-General of the State, directly to the Heads of the Legislature and the Judiciary, and Heads of Judicial Service Committee or Commission;

“That the budgeted sum, capital and recurrent howsoever described, be released to the Judiciary to be spent by the Judiciary on the projects, programmes and capital development of the Judiciary, including recruitment and training of personnel. And so for the Legislature;

 “That the current practice in some states where appropriated recurrent expenditure due the Judiciary and Legislature in the budget, are released to the Judiciary and Legislature and the Capital components are warehoused in the Executive is hereby abolished.”

The communiqué also added that the retreat resolved that State Allocation Committee comprising relevant stakeholders should be created to determine the amount accruable to each arm of government on the basis of budgetary provision spurred by the volume of funds available to each state.

It also provided specifications for the payment of pensions to judicial officers in superior courts and encouraged state legislatures to pass laws aimed at ensuring prudent use of funds accrued to the states.