By Deji Elumoye
The end appears to be in sight in the crisis rocking the judicial and legislative arms of government in the states as the 36 state Governors on Monday evening gave an assurance that the much anticipated financial autonomy for the two arms of government will become effective from May, 2021.
This is just as the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) said it was not necessary for it to react to the allegation by Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo state that N60 billion was printed by the Federal Government in March, 2021 to augment monthly allocation to the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
President Muhammadu Buhari had last May issued an Executive Order 10 granting financial autonomy to state judiciary and legislature but was yet to be implemented and culminated in the judicial workers under the aegis of Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) embarking on industrial action since April 6, 2021 which has grounded activities at the courts across the 36 states.
Chairman of the NGF and Governor of Ekiti state, Dr Kayode Fayemi, told newsmen at the State House, Abuja after a marathon meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, that all along the governors had been on the same page with the judges and Speakers of the state Assemblies over the financial autonomy for both the judiciary and legislature in the states.
He said: “But for us we’re here for legislative and judicial autonomy and the governors, the speakers and the judges are on the same page, as far as this issue is concerned.
We just emerged from a meeting with the Solicitor-General of the Federation, the representatives of the judiciary, the representatives of the Conference of Speakers, and House of Representatives and we are on all fours. An agreement has been reached”.
According to him, the issue of implementation of the financial autonomy has been finally resolved at Monday’s meeting and is to begin latest by the end of May once the final copy of the implementation document is ready.
His words: “First, the issue is about implementation. There has been no objection from governors on judicial and legislative autonomies, as a matter of fact, it would not have passed if governors were not in support in the first instance, in the state Assemblies.
“So that issue has been fully and holistically addressed, but we don’t just want to agree to something on paper without working out the modalities for implementation. Thankfully, the meeting we have just emerged from, with the Chief of Staff to the President chairing, has worked out the modalities to the satisfaction of all parties.
“As soon as the final document that is being cleaned up emerges, that is preparatory to implementation. We’re not going to put a timeframe in the air, but it will be implemented as soon as possible, definitely no later than the end of May 2021”.
Fayemi, who was in the company of Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (Sokoto), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Chairman, Conference of Speakers of States Assembly, Hon Abubakar Suleiman of Bauchi state House of Assembly; Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Dayo Akpata; Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta, Senator Ita Enang, advised the striking judicial workers to call off their strike in nation’s interest as the issues raised by JUSUN had been addressed by all the parties concerned .
“In the interest of the nation, we believe that the striking workers should return to their offices because as far as this has gone, we have met with all the parties concerned, the President, through the Chief of Staff, has also been insisting on this matter and has been monitoring what has been happening and I think we’re basically at a position where whether you speak to the Conference of Speakers’ chairperson or you speak to me or you speak to the representative of the judiciary or you speak to the Solicitor-General of the Federation, you will hear that we’re speaking with one voice on the implementation and no later than May, you will start seeing the implementation of the agreement that we’ve reached”.
Asked why NGF has not commented on the N60 billion that Governor Obaseki of Edo state accused the federal government of printing to augment allocation to states, Ekiti state Governor declined to comment saying it does not require the governors’ response.
He said: “It’s because for us, this is not an issue that requires a statement from the governors. The Minister of Finance has dealt with it and the issue is out there for you to deal with”.