The Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, on Tuesday said state governors were not opposed to financial autonomy for the judiciary and the legislature.
Lalong, who stated this in an interview with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum press corps in Abuja, however, faulted the Executive Order 10, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) signed into law last year.
The Plateau State governor, who is also the Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, said the Federal Government could not force states to implement financial autonomy for the judiciary and legislature.
Lalong said that there were measures that must be taken before the autonomy could be implemented.
He added that state governors would meet with the leadership of Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria on Wednesday (today) with a view to ending the strike embarked upon by the union.
Judiciary workers had on Tuesday last week begun the indefinite nationwide strike in protest against the denial of the judiciary its constitutionally guaranteed financial autonomy which was also affirmed by a Federal High Court in January 2014.
Recall that the President last year signed into law, Executive Order No 10 of 2020 cited as “the implementation of financial autonomy for state legislature and judiciary Order, 2020.”
According to www.thelawcrest.com, a key provision of the Executive Order, “which seeks to enforce financial autonomy of the legislature and judiciary of the states, is the power given to the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct from the allocations due to a state from the Federation Account, any sums appropriated for the legislature or judiciary of that state which the state fails to release to its legislature or judiciary as the case may be and to pay the funds directly to the state’s legislature or judiciary concerned.”
Responding to questions on the public outcry over the ongoing strike by JUSUN allegedly caused by the state governors and the non-implementation of Executive Order 10, Lalong said, “The court did not make any pronouncement on Order 10. The court said there is a law on financial autonomy, so Order 10 and financial autonomy are different. Order 10 is not a law. Financial autonomy is a law.
“People don’t understand what Order 10 is. Order 10 is talking about implementation. But for us governors, we are saying no. We are going to do implementation. We don’t need any Order 10 to force us to do implementation. So, we don’t need Order 10. We are only working on the law of implementation because Federal Government cannot tell us how to implement.
“We are doing the implementation. So for the judiciary, I’ve explained. I have said it’s perhaps people don’t understand. People have not even read what is Order 10 and the difference between Order 10 and the financial autonomy. We will have a meeting tomorrow. It is (the meeting) about financial autonomy.
“It’s not about Order 10. Order 10 of course is sub-judice now. It’s in court. We are not bothered about Order 10. We are talking about the implementation of the financial autonomy law.
“I was a speaker. We started it in 1999. Today I’m a governor, and I knew how the governors agreed, and brought in financial autonomy. It was a law, agreed by the governors.
“So who is the one that is even crying more than the bereaved? All these things affect us. And, of course, talking today, I’m a lawyer and I would want the judiciary to be autonomous.
“I’ve been a legislator. I was a speaker and chairman of speakers’ conference, so I will say that I will want autonomy for them.
He said autonomy would strengthen the judiciary and legislature in states. “People are thinking that is about money, it’s not about money. We want all the institutions strengthened; both the judiciary and the legislature,” he stated.
While responding to question on why the governors were foot-dragging, Lalong disagreed with the insinuation.
He said, “No governor is foot-dragging. Who’s foot-dragging? We were not consulted when the Order came. So when you are talking about implementation, you’re talking about a policy.
“There must be processes. For instance, I will tell you that you cannot do financial autonomy, until you have a service commission in place. You must establish a state allocation committee, and all these are steps toward autonomy.
“You don’t achieve autonomy in a day. We did it for the National Assembly, and there was no Order 10 for implementation. It took them stages. The Federal Government is aware. Some former members of the National Assembly are today governors. How can they say they don’t want autonomy?
He stated that seven governors, who were once members of the National Assembly, fought for financial autonomy for the National Assembly.
“So we are saying it’s a process, someone will just come and say Order 10. I’m doing it today, no!” he added.
When asked the extent of dialogue on the financial autonomy, he said, “We’ve had very useful dialogue with both the representatives of the judiciary and the state speakers.
He said the unions would meet with governors on Wednesday. “Sometimes people don’t know what they are fighting for,” he said.