Financial Autonomy for State Judiciary, Legislature;Buhari Gets Lawyers Applause

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Robinson Akintunde,Lagos

Lagos lawyers, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) and Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, Mr. Clement Nwankwo, have commended President Muhammadu Buhari for Buhari for signing into law the Executive Order for the implementation of financial autonomy for state legislature and judiciary.

The law which is part of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, by signing into law an Executive Order to grants financial autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary across the 36 states of the federation.

In separate interviews with Nigeria Daily, the lawyers described the development as a “milestone” in the efforts to strengthen the country’s democratic institutions.

They stated that the president acted rightly when he issued the executive order on Friday to ensure financial autonomy for states’ judiciary and Houses of Assembly.

Falana said since the governors would not comply with the provisions of the constitution, the president had a duty to enforce the constitution. He stressed that the executive order was aimed at enforcing the constitution.

According to him, section 121 of the constitution grants the judiciary financial autonomy. But the governors would not comply with it.

Besides, Falana stated that there had been two judgements calling on governments to uphold financial autonomy for the judiciary.

He said, “Remember that judiciary workers had to go on strike to force government to comply. That was what led to the amendment of the constitution in 2018. Despite that, the governors did not respect both the judgements and the amendment to the constitution.

“What the president has now done is to use Executive Order to direct the accountant-general to fulfill the provisions of the constitution to actualise the constitutional amendments.

“The president is in order in issuing the executive order. The president has a right to enforce the constitution, if the governors would not do it.”

Adegboruwa commended the President for his bold initiative to grant financial autonomy to the judiciary, through the executive order.

He said: “It takes courage and selflessness for the head of the executive to seek to grant autonomy to the judicial arm of government, when it is considered that most cases in the courts are to check the excesses of the executive arm, being the organ of government responsible for the implementation of policies.”

He however, warned that it was not enough to grant financial autonomy to the judiciary but also to ensure compliance with the rule of law through full and complete obedience to all orders and decisions of the courts.

He said: “I urge the President to grant total autonomy to the judiciary by signing another executive order to all parastatals, agencies and departments of government to implement section 287 of the 1999 Constitution by complying with all orders, judgments and decisions of the courts.

“In addition, the statutory power placed upon the Attorneys-General to grant approval for the enforcement of monetary judgments involving government revenue is one of the greatest encroachments upon the powers of the judiciary, whereby a member of the executive is still required to approve or refuse the enforcement of a final decision of any court, even after full trial. The President should uproot this anomaly urgently.”

He urged governors of to cooperate with the President for the full implementation of the executive order in all parts of the federation.

Nwankwo said regarding the executive order, “It is welcome, especially since state executives/governors have consistently hindered the constitutional provisions guaranteeing the financial autonomy and independence of these arms of government.”

He explained that the order outlined implementation mechanisms for the amendments made by the National Assembly in the Fourth Alterations to the Constitution.

According to him, “It is not and cannot add to the well spelt out constitution alteration that provides for the financial budget of the state judiciary and state legislatures to be on first line charge. The National Assembly and the federal judiciary benefited from a similar amendment made to the constitution in the First Constitution Alteration of 2010.

“The Executive Order reiterates what the Constitution Alteration set out to achieve.”

Buhari had on Friday signed Executive Order Number 10 of 2020 for the implementation of Financial Autonomy of State Legislature and State Judiciary. This was announced in a statement issued by Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Dr. Umar Gwandu.

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