Implementation of state legislature/judiciary autonomy begins

The Nigerian government has said the implementation of financial autonomy for the state legislature and judiciary would commence this week.

Minister of Labour and Employment Senator Chris Ngige disclosed this in his office after a conciliation meeting to resolve the ongoing strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN).

Ngige said the striking legislative and judiciary workers would call off their prolonged strike as soon as implementation starts.

Speaking on the resolution of challenges of autonomy for state legislature and the judiciary, Secretary of the Presidential implementation Committee for state legislature and Judiciary, Senator Ita Enang said the minister made his deep wealth of knowledge and experience available for the committee to draw from.

“Let me extend profound gratitude to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who gave us the greatest cooperation and directly by that, to the Honorable Minister of labour and Employment. This is because he has shown the greatest expertise and proficiency in the handling of this PASAN/JUSUN issue.

“I want to thank you so very much because in this matter, you became a judge, you became a lawyer , you became an accountant . You also brought your experience as a former governor of a state and as a Senator.”

Addressing journalists, Ngige said the parties signed a document containing the framework for each of the state governments to grant autonomy to their legislature and judiciary.

He noted that governors had studied the document and were in agreement with it, adding that the implementation would commence next week with the distribution of the April allocation from the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC).

He added that whatever comes from FAAC, even the state governments yet to put their fund allocation committees in place, would wait to do so, to ensure the money goes down there.

The meeting which commenced at exactly 6:45pm after a 9-hour stormy session with the Kaduna state government and the NLC, ended 10pm with the adoption and signing of a Memorandum Of Action(MOA) tagged “Implementation of Financial Autonomy for the State Legislature and Judiciary.”

The highlight of the MOA was its article D, upon which the suspension of the strike was predicated as its implementation is triggered from Monday May 24, 2021, when the April FAAC to states is expected to start dropping.

It reads in part: “The Governments of the respective States shall credit the Accounts of each State House of Assembly and each State Judiciary with the pro-rata amount due each of the two arms of Government under the 2021 Appropriation for each State in accordance with B(iii) of this Memorandum of Action commencing from April 2021 State Allocation from the State Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) as a sign of good faith.

And the B(iii) in reference says “whenever there is Revenue shortfall, lower than the Budgeted fund, the monthly allocations to each arm of government shall reflect a percentage of the appropriated sum or an irreducible minimum amount to be allocated every month for the purpose of meeting its costs whichever is higher. This percentage will reflect as 100% in Personnel Cost. The Running Cost and Capital Cost will be pro-rata of Revenue performance as per the State Appropriation Law.”

Upon fulfillment of the above, “ the ongoing Industrial Action shall be suspended with immediate effect from the date of the agreements contained in this Memorandum of Action (MOA), provided item D above is effected immediately and others effected within the 45 days window as prescribed in this MOA.

The framework added: “Annually, upon the determination of budget ceilings or envelopes from the Budget Committee of the State, anchored by the Budget Office of the State headed by the Commissioner in-charge, each arm of government – Executive, Judiciary, Legislature, acting through its own Budget and/or Funds Management Committee, shall prepare its Budget Estimates/Details and submit same to the State House of Assembly;

“There shall also be established in each State a State Account Allocation Committee (SAAC) to be given legislative backing in the various Fund Management Laws and charged with the responsibility to oversee the distribution of available resources to each arm of government.

“Every State Commissioner of Finance and State Accountant General shall on a monthly basis furnish the Committee with the revenue performance of the State within a stipulated timeline not exceeding 7 days after each FAAC meeting. Based on the revenue receipt, evaluations and the needs of each arm, the Committee shall work out an appropriate budget release based on the Appropriation for each Arm of Government for that year.”

The Presidential Implementation Committee shall give a biweekly appraisal and follow-up.

Ngige described the signing of the document by all parties as historic and a fundamental kick-starting of restructuring being clamoured for by some Nigerians , acclaiming the President for the unmatched political will.

“Perhaps, it will be pertinent to point out to those clamouring for restructuring that this is a fundamental restructuring of the Nigerian Federation. This is a restructuring that has granted autonomy to the state judiciary and legislature. I am happy that we are part of this history making and that we made this history in the life of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.”

He praised the President for achieving this feat through the instrumentality of the fourth alteration that gave birth to Section 121 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Presidential Executive Order 10 and the establishment of the implementation committee.