Governors are prepared to back autonomy for the Legislature, Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong said on Monday.
Also on Monday, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, said there is no going back on the plan to free lawmakers and the judiciary in states from the stronghold of the Executive.
Lalong, who is the Chair of Northern Governors’ Forum, spoke in Jos, the Plateau State capital when he received a delegation of the Conference of Speaker of the House of Assembly, Abubakar Suleiman.
He told the team that the issue of autonomy for the legislature would be put to rest with the final engagements among all stakeholders.
Lalong, according to a statement, pointed out in a statement by his Director of Press and Public Affairs, Dr. Makut Simon Macham, said autonomy was not just for financial independence, but also for strengthening the legislature and enhancing democratic values.
According to him, the implementation of autonomy will require each state to establish a House of Assembly Service Commission to handle all administrative functions of the legislature and provide proper accountability.
The statement said: ’’Governor Lalong has assured the leadership of the Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly of the commitment of all governors towards achieving autonomy for the legislative and judicial arms of government.
“He advised the speakers to engage other parties as well as educate the public on what autonomy is all about because a lot of misconception is creating an impression that members of the legislature stand to gain financially rather than be better supported to serve the people.”
On insecurity, Lalong said “the implementation of community policing was the way to go which will gradually lead to state police when fully implemented.”
Suleiman told the governor that the team was on an advocacy visit to discuss the issue of autonomy and other national matters such as insecurity.
He said that “the conference recognises the strategic position of Governor Lalong as a former speaker and chairman of the body, Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, and a strong member of the Nigerian Governors Forum who has been at the centre of discussions towards autonomy.”
Justice Minister Malami at the inauguration of the remodeled Sokoto State High Court Complex in Sokoto, described autonomy for the Judiciary and the Legislature as a catalyst for the protection and promotion of democracy.
Malami also said the government would soon unveil an enhanced salary package and conditions of service for judges as part of measures to make them deliver justice without fear or favour.
He noted that with the last amendment to the Constitution and the Executive Order 10, the issue of financial autonomy for state Judiciary and Legislature ought not to be negotiable.
He highlighted other efforts by the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to grant financial autonomy to the Judiciary and Legislature, saying they are meant “to guard against the manifest violation of our constitutional sacred provisions that guaranty independence of the Judiciary and financial autonomy of the legislature and the Judiciary in all forms of Nigerian government.”
He said: “It is pertinent to note that the National Assembly, through the Fourth Alteration to the 1999 Constitution, granted financial autonomy, through Section 121(3) of the Constitution to the Judiciary and Legislature at the state level, in order to strengthen these critical arms of the Nigerian Government at the state level, in view of the obvious challenges confronting them.
“In furtherance of the alteration, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, in March 2019 inaugurated the Presidential Implementation Committee on Autonomy of the state legislature and state judiciary.
“It is gladdening to note that the outcome of that committee’s work has gained for the country the execution and emergence Executive Order 10, for the implementation of the financial autonomy of the state-level legislature and judiciary arms of the government.”
He also explained that the new packages for judges were apart of government’s efforts to support the Judiciary to enable it effectively discharge its constitutional duties and sustain the nation’s democracy.
Malami added: “As you all know, for there to be sustenance of democracy through effective administration of justice, judges as the defenders of social justice and lords of our judicial realm, as well as other judicial staff must be adequately taken care of by way of enhanced emolument and welfare packages, to enable them to dispense justice at all times, without fear or favour, in an independent manner.”
The minister noted that the judiciary remains a strong catalyst for sustaining democracy, through its “protection of our democratic principles, such as the enforcement of rules of law, promotion of checks-and-balances, preservation of the principles of separation of powers, and proactive judicial activisms become the bedrocks for sustainable democracy.”
He said that the decision by Sokoto State Government to remodel the high court complex was an indication of Governor Aminu Tambuwal’s support for Federal Government’s efforts to ensure financial autonomy for the judiciary and legislature at the state level.
Earlier, Justice Amina Augie who represented the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, had said justice remains cardinal in transformation processes.
Also on Monday, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the National Assembly cannot salvage the local government system unless Nigerians make a conscious decision for autonomy to be granted that tier of government.
He spoke at a leadership training for local government chairmen and councilors from Delta state-sponsored by House Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu.
The speaker said “It’s not for us as legislators to do that. I’m sure you’re surprised. But it’s actually for the people to address. We have a constitutional amendment, we will throw it to the people and they will make their decision.
“We did it the last time and went back to the states as required by the constitution. But we couldn’t get the 2/3rd. There is a process and we followed due process. We amended it last time but 2/3rd of the states did not agree with us.
“So it’s the people that will decide whether they want autonomy or not. We will do what we need to do as the constitution provides.”.