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AGF: Financial autonomy for state legislatures, judiciaries non-negotiable

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN,

The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has stated that the constitutional provision in Section 121(3) guaranteeing financial autonomy for the judiciary and legislature at the state level is a non-negotiable right exercisable by both arms of government.

Malami faulted the arguments that queried the constitutionality of the Executive Order 10 issued by President Muhammadu Buhari to further the implementation of the provision of Section 121(3), contending that the presidential initiative was “designed and intended to give enforcement spirit to the autonomy provision.”

He said governors were not averse to enforcement of the constitutional provision on financial autonomy for state legislature and judiciary.

The minister stated that the seeming disagreement was in relation to the modality to be adopted in its application, which was currently being worked out in the series of engagements that are being held.

Malami, who spoke yesterday while featuring on a live television programme, said: “Generally speaking, the operation, application and enforcement of laws are a process. With particular regard to the executive order, you have to take into account the antecedence. One, there exists a constitutional amendment, with particular regard to Section121 (3) of the Constitution that initiated the process.

“In addition to the constitutional amendment, we equally have in place, the Executive Order 10, signed by the President. Which, in effect, is designed and intended to give enforcement spirit to the autonomy as contained in Section 121(3).

“Arising therefrom, there were contentions, particularly on the part of the governors as to the application and operation of the provision of Section 121(3) and the Executive Order. And you have, in that respect, an implementation committee, among others. On the side of the implementation committee, there have been series of engagements, which are ongoing. I think, as a process, we are evolving.

“Nobody is contending about the constitutional amendment having been in place. Nobody is equally contending about the need for the Executive Order.

“Nobody is contenting about the fact that there exists the political will on the part of the executive, in particular, the president, about the implementation of the autonomy of the judiciary and the legislature. But then, perhaps, the limited engagement is about the modalities.

“So, against the background of these processes that are unfolding, I think the process is indeed, evolving and we are certainly getting there.

“At the end of the day, the executive order has been in place, the legislative processes associated with its implementation are in place, and I think the engagement is a product of such a process that will eventually see to the implementation, enforcement and application of the executive order.”

On whether the financial autonomy provisions could be successfully implemented at the state level under a federal system of government, Malami insisted that there was no excuse to escape its implementation at the state level because an example already exists at the federal level.

Meanwhile, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, has urged judicial workers to end the over 40 days’ strike in “the interest of the nation.

Justice Muhammad has urged Judiciary workers in the country to end the over 40 days’ strike in “the interest of the nation.

Justice Muhammad appealed to the striking workers to reason with other stakeholders and end the industrial action.

The CJN made the appeal yesterday following a meeting with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, who visited to inform him of the progress made so far on the negotiations to address judicial workers’ demands.

Muhammad stated that calling off the strike would also allow an opportunity for further negotiations towards the resolution of the dispute.

He said some of the issues in contention were already subjudice, and stressed the need to give the requisite legal process enough opportunity to be exhausted, a statement by Mr. Ahuraka Isah, media aide to the CJN, stated.

Also, Ngige has assured Nigerians that the strike by legislative and judicial workers would end by next week.

Ngige spoke shortly after a meeting with some heads of courts, led by Justice Muhammad.

According to him, series of meetings with stakeholders, including state governors, have been scheduled for between Tuesday and Thursday, “to iron out the few remaining grey areas”.

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