Financial Autonomy: Courts, State Houses of Assembly Resume Next Week


BY SEGUN ADEBAYO, ABUJA – After weeks of rigmarole and drawbacks, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), has finally acceded to the terms of the agreement contained in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), entered between it, Federal Government, the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) over Financial Autonomy.

Chairman of the NGF, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, and his Deputy, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, signed the MoU on behalf of their colleagues on the agreement reached on May 20, 2021.

Accordingly, there is now brighter rays of hope that the nation’s Courts and State Houses of Assembly are likely to call off their strike and resume work next week.

This is as the Federal Government expressed optimism that following the resolution reached with the striking workers, the courts and State legislatures would re-open next week.

Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who gave the assurance while briefing journalists shortly after a closed door meeting in Abuja on Friday between the government and workers’ unions, said the meeting was called to smoothen the grey areas in the Memorandum of Action (MoA) reached on May 20, 2021.

Members of the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) commenced a nationwide strike on April 6 to demand for financial autonomy from State governors.

The two Unions explained that the strike which began after the expiration of their 21-day ultimatum was over the failure of the government to implement the law recognising financial autonomy for the judiciary and the legislature as different arms of government.

However, the Minister of Labour and Employment said; “with what we achieved at the meeting, it is expected that the courts and state assemblies will re-open next week, since all the grey areas have been smoothened.

“So, today we met with the unions in a small dialogue to dot the I’s and cross the T’s in the agreement which we agreed on May 20. Right now, we expect the unions to go back to their members and give them final briefing on what we have achieved today.

“And with this achievement of today, we are hopeful that by next week, the chambers of our courts and the doors of the state assemblies will be open for business activities,” Ngige assured.

The Minister said that the government and the unions are not oblivious that the situation has posed serious challenges to the nation, especially as the courts were closed and the law enforcement agencies have no place to take arrested criminals.

Ngige commended the unions for the efforts put in place in the final round of the dialogue where modalities that were not very clear have been sorted to the satisfaction of both sides.

In his comment, the Deputy President of JUSUN, Mr Emmanuel Abisoye, said that he expects all the parties to fulfil their part of the agreement and assured that his union would play its part just as he expressed the hope that the governors would do the needful to ensure that industrial harmony returns to the courts.

Similarly, the President of PASAN, Mr Mohammed Usman, expressed optimism that all stakeholders would do the needful within the shortest possible time to see that the workers in the State Houses of Assembly return to work.

In his own remarks, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr Ayuba Wabba, said that it is necessary to ensure that industrial harmony strives in these sectors of our economy.

Also speaking, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, who is also the Secretary of the Implementation Committee for Judicial/Legislative Autonomy, Senator Ita Enang, commended President Muhammadu Buhari and the Labour Minister for their efforts to attain autonomy for the state legislature and judiciary.

Enang said the country cannot afford further closure of the courts and state assemblies having arrived at this stage, adding that the latest development would heal the security, human rights and political temperature of the country.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on May 22, 2020, signed an Executive Order 10 granting financial autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary across the 36 states of the federation, thereby making mandatory for all states to include the allocations of both the legislature and the judiciary in the first-line charge of their budgets.

The order mandates the Accountant General of the Federation to deduct from source funds due to the State legislatures and judiciaries directly from the monthly allocation from each state that refuses to grant such autonomy.

Members of the Nigerian Governors Forum have been opposed to the Presidential Order which was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari to give effect to Sections 81(3) and 121(3) of the 1999 Constitutional (as amended) that guarantee financial autonomy to the judiciary and legislature at both federal and state level respectively.

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