Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari will soon sign an executive order that would further give bite to the implementation of financial autonomy for state Houses of Assembly and the judiciary.
The new executive order is based on the recommendations of a committee set up by the president to work out ways of ensuring that states comply with the existing law on financial autonomy for the judiciary and state legislature.
Addressing the Delegates Conference, the Presidential Liaison Officer for the National Assembly, Senator Solomon Ita Enang, said that although the autonomy of the state assemblies and the judiciary is complete with the coming into force of the fourth amendment to the 1999 constitution, its implementation has remained a problem.
He said that some governors have been showing resistance in implementing the relevant law on financial autonomy for the affected arms of government.
The presidential aide however said that as soon as the president issues an executive order to back the recommendations of the committee, the team would move to the field to ensure that the legal provisions on financial autonomy is implemented.
Enang said: “Now, we have completed our assignment and submitted our recommendations to Mr. President and we are awaiting the issuance of an executive order to enable its implementation.”
Speaking on what led to the setting up of the committee, Enang said that the initiative was sequel to the reluctance of state chief executives to abide by the law on financial autonomy to the state judiciary and assemblies.
“After the law has been enacted, the governors did not allow its implementation because some of these governors do not accept that they are governors under the executive and the judiciary is headed by the Chief Judge, while the Assembly is headed by the Speaker. And they do not want to release money for the judiciary to them and that of the assemblies to the assemblies. And so, the president considered it appropriate to set up an implementation committee for which I am the secretary.
“The committee is headed by the Attorney General of the Federation and had as members, representatives from state governments, judiciary and the state assemblies,” he said.
Enang noted that in constituting the committee, President Buhari made sure that all relevant stakeholders were represented.
According to Enang, the committee was made up of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), himself, the Chief Judge of Bayelsa and Kogi States representing other state chief judges, the Conference of Speakers represented by its chairman, the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly and his deputy, the Speaker of Taraba State House of Assembly as well as the President of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria.
Giving insight on the committee’s recommendations, Enang said that they recommended that there should be a joint budget committee in every state to handle the budgetary allocation to the various arms of government.
He said that the committee also recommended that states should enact a legislation to back the proposed budgetary system so that it would become binding.
“The idea here is that the commissioner for finance will be a member, the accountant general will be a member, and since the governor and speaker are not to be members, the person to represent the legislature is the clerk of the House of Assembly. The chief judge is not a member but will be represented by the chief registrar.
“All the members of the budget committee will sit to approve the state budget. The governor will not sit to approve the allocation to the judiciary or to the legislature. The joint budget committee will decide as to what the state legislature is entitled to and what the judiciary is entitled to, and they would include that in the budget and present it to the governor and the governor will in turn take that and lay it at the state House of Assembly,” he said.
Enang said under the new proposal, once a budget is passed, both the judiciary and the state Houses of Assembly do not need the permission of the state governor to access their money.
He also stated that in circumstances where there is enough money to be released for the budget, all the arms of government will draw funds on parity basis so that if for instance, the executive arm takes 70 per cent, the judiciary and legislature will also take 70 per cent of their budget.
Earlier in his opening statements, the National President of PASAN, Bala Hadi, complained about the poor conditions of service of legislative staff, adding that the situation where their members in some states were denied their salaries and legitimate entitlement does not speak well of the nation’s commitment to the development and sustenance of democracy.