The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has faulted the Executive Order 10 issued in 2020 by President Muhammadu Buhari that guaranteed the financial autonomy of state legislature and judiciary.

The Forum said that the Executive Order 10 was needless to ostensibly support implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary and legislature, saying President Buhari was ill-advised on the issue.

The NGF Vice Chairman and Governor of Sokoto, Dr. Aminu Tambuwal made this known in Ado-Ekiti, on Wednesday during a Colloquium organised by the Ekiti State Ministry of Justice Academy, in honour of the retiring Chief Judge of the State, Justice Ayodeji Daramola.

Speaking on the theme entitled: “The Judicial Autonomy: Perspective of the Nigerian Governor Forum”, Tambuwal said that the Forum expected President Buhari to have consulted widely before issuing the order, saying exercising such powers unilaterally was ‘sheer illegality’.

The governor clarified that the states’ governors were not opposed to financial autonomy for these arms of government, saying the delay in implementation was as a result of process, structure and quest for legal clarity.

He said: “Nigeria in Section 121(3) provides that: “Any amount standing to the credit of the – (a)House of Assembly of the State; and (b) Judiciary In the Consolidated revenue Fund of the State shall be paid directly to the said bodies respectively; in the case of the judiciary, such amount shall be paid directly to the heads of the courts concerned.”

As Governors of the 36 States under the platform of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), let me state very clearly that we are unequivocally committed to the autonomy of the judiciary and the legislature.

“The recent misunderstanding on the financial autonomy of the Judiciary is predicated on the need to establish an implementation framework to the 4th Alteration of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Section 121(3). What we have questioned, and we have made this known at every opportunity, is the process of implementing this provision of the Constitution.

“As Governors, we will be failing in our responsibility if we refuse to draw the attention of the President, stakeholders and the country to grave concerns about the constitutionality of Executive Order 10 of 2020. That was the basis of the position that we took on the Executive Order 10.

“The Executive Order 10 ostensibly intended to support the implementation of judicial financial autonomy, was completely unnecessary and ill advised. Let me at this juncture state clearly that we never questioned the right of Mr. President to issue Executive Orders. We only stated that Section 121(3) did not require Presidential Executive Fiat to become implementable.

Tambuwal expressed delight that consensus has finally been reached on the autonomy conundrum and opined that the strike is expected to be suspended anytime soon.

“The agreement allows a period of 45 days for implementation structures to be put in place across States including the enactment of a Fund Management Law which will grant the Judiciary the power to manage its capital and recurrent expenditures in accordance with the provisions of constitution.

“Budgetary releases to the judiciary will be pro-rated based on the actual revenues recorded each month by the State government. Monthly revenue reconciliation and allocation will be presided over by a State Account Allocation Committee (SAAC) to be set up under the Fund Management Law – a similar practice to what we have at the federal level.

“We hope that this will put an end to the long weeks of strike action that have seen our judicial and criminal justice system grounded to a halt. We have lost so much in the past weeks. The big takeaway is the centrality of communication, sincerity, trust and dialogue.

“We have requested that the President disbands the Presidential Implementation Committee on the Autonomy of State Legislature and Judiciary, to avert future rancor between the various arms of government, arising from misconceived guidance from a committee lacking the requisite understanding of constitutional matters.”

Corroborating Tambuwal’s position, the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, said that the Presidential directive was unconstitutional illegal as it undermined the executive power of the governors stipulated in the 1999 constitution.

Fayemi said that the states’ governors are committed to financial autonomy for the legislature and judiciary, saying that ‘democracy can’t endure if we subject the independence of these two arms to the jackboots of the governors’.

“Who is to take capital spending for the judiciary and legislature has always been the controversy. The governors will continue to hold our judiciary with reverence, because In know that this democracy will not endure, if we subject our judiciary to the jackboots of the executive.

“There is no questioning the fact that we can do a lot more for our judiciary to make it truly independent,” he added.

In his submission, the CJ of Ekiti State, Justice Ayodeji Daramola, said judicial autonomy was essential ingredients for democratic consolidation.

He added further that judicial autonomy was adequately guaranteed in the 1999 constitution, saying section 121 (3) was simple and should be respected by state governors.