by Yusuf Alli
Despite the signing of an agreement by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) on autonomy for Judiciary and Legislature at the state level, the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) has asked them to remit funds to the two arms before calling off their strike action.
The two arms of government will be getting statutory transfers from First Line charge.
Each of the 36 states is also expected to establish a State Account Allocation Committee (SAAC) to make the financial autonomy realistic.
Besides, all the state Houses of Assembly are to pass appropriate laws to back the autonomy for the Judiciary and the Legislature.
The terms of the agreement will be implemented within 45 days by all the parties.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the governors signed the agreement to implement Executive Order 10 on Friday in Abuja.
Although the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and the Conference of Speakers of the State Houses of Assembly had endorsed the pact over the last two weeks, the governors spent the period to consult before consenting.
A top source told The Nation in Abuja that “we have virtually resolved all issues because the governors on Friday signed the agreement.”
The Chairman of the NGF, Governor Kayode Fayemi, and the Vice Chairman, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, signed for the governors, it was gathered.
The source said: “After signing, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige invited the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the President of JUSUN and other stakeholders to come and see the document.
“We are now in the next phase of calling off the strike action. But JUSUN came up with another clause that the governors should put funds down first before they can suspend their industrial action.
“They said they cannot trust the commitment of the governors to the agreement without cash backing. They also claimed that the purpose of the strike would have been defeated if the state Judiciary and Legislature were not financially independent,
“The governors however said they should be given time to release funds to back up the implementation of the autonomy for the two arms. They are depending on the timeline for the implementation of the agreement which is 45 days.
“In the end, the Federal Government prevailed on JUSUN and the Conference of Speakers to allow all parties to implement the terms of the agreement.
“Despite the intervention of the Federal Government, JUSUN asked for time to consult within 72 hours including holding of Zoom meetings. They said they will use the period to consider all options.”
When contacted, Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige said: “Agreement has been signed by the governors and all the parties.
“The Federal Government is not complicit but it has done its best to facilitate the agreement. It is a big job but I have to do it.
“I am commending all the stakeholders for putting the agreement in place. But it is not yet over till the governors do the needful and JUSUN calls off the strike.
“It was agreed upon that the states will establish State Account Allocation Committee (SAAC) and the remittance of statutory funds will take effect from April allocation.”
Responding to a question, Ngige said: “JUSUN asked for time to meet with their members on Saturday, Sunday and probably Monday before calling off the strike action.”
Following the issuance of Executive Order 10 for autonomy for the Legislature and the Judiciary, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) had faulted the order and protested to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Issues raised by the governors were referred to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, who set up a committee headed by the Solicitor-General of the Federation, Mr. Dayo Akpata, SAN.
Akpata’s committee was able to “establish that it is within the powers of the President to issue an Executive Order, including Eo10.
The committee also clarified that all “issues raised by the governors have been litigated upon and rested by the courts.”
Based on the verdict of Akpata’s panel and the recommendations of the AGF, a Presidential Implementation Committee on the Autonomy for the Judiciary and the Legislature was set up, with the Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Sen. Ita Enang as Secretary.
The implementation committee facilitated talks among all parties and the eventual negotiation with Judicial workers, which was coordinated by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige.
Some of the terms of the agreement are:
- Enactment of Judiciary Funds Management Law in each state
- Promulgation of the Legislature Funds Management Law.
- Direct payment of statutory allocations to the State Judiciary and Houses of Assembly through First Line Charge.
- Direct deduction of funds for the state Judiciary and the Legislature to take effect from April allocations from the Federation Account
- Governors to implement the agreement within 45 days of signing or the Federal Government may enforce Executive Order 10.