Before going into details, it is important to set the record straight by stating that as a responsible and responsive organization, we will continue to support the fundamental needs of the country, and, the positive purpose of the elected government if it will not in any way dent/obstruct the media’s primary responsibility to the masses in a democratic society, and as we totally align our views with that of President Muhammadu Buhari as it patterns to the Executive order 10.
The reason for our position will be given in subsequent paragraphs but before then, let us add context to the discourse.
Recall that following the protracted industrial action embarked on Monday, April 6 by the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), to among other things demand Judicial autonomy, President Muhammadu Buhari on May 20, 2020, issued Executive order 10, to give breath to Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to ensure its implementation.
The order partly reads: “Whereas a Presidential Implementation Committee was constituted to fashion out strategies and modalities for the implementation of financial autonomy for the State Legislature and State Judiciary in compliance with section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended); taking into considerations all other applicable laws, instruments, conventions, and regulations, which provides for financial autonomy at the State tier of Government;
“Whereas the implementation of financial autonomy of the State Legislature and State Judiciary will strengthen the institutions at the State tier of Government and make them more independent and accountable in line with the tenets of democracy as enshrined by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended); and few days after the order was issued, the Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto while reacting to the development stated that the impasse over the financial autonomy of the country’s judicial arm of government, occasioned by the issuance of Executive Order 10 by President Muhammadu Buhari, could be resolved without recourse to the implementation of the order, which ‘constitutionality’ is unclear.
According to him, “The Executive Order 10 ostensibly intended to support the implementation of judicial financial autonomy, was completely unnecessary and ill-advised.”Noting that the Provisions of the constitution in S.121 (3) did not require Presidential Executive Fiat to become implementable.
He enumerated some portions of Executive Order #10 that the governors took exception to as: authorization to the Accountant General of the Federation to deduct money without having recourse to the court, prescription of what allocation should fall under a First Line Charge, dictation to a state how it should organize its governance and its processes, legislative and otherwise; prescription of the establishment of a State Judiciary Budget Committee; and, usurpation, by Mr. President, of the directive, addressed to the House of Assembly of a State by Section 5 of the Constitution.
The remaining are unlawful interference in the governance of States by the Presidential directive to make special extraordinary capital allocations for the Judiciary, payment of recurrent expenditure, including the salaries of Judges and Khadis, by the Federal Government, stifling of States seeking the means of implementing S. 121(3); and, that Executive Order #10 does not take into cognizance that the fiscal environment at the Federal level is different from what obtains at the State level, much as it also gives little attention to the question of legacy loans inherited from preceding administrations and ways to manage this.
Certainly, while the Governor may be legally correct, there are some applied reasons which in our view postures the governors’ arguments as not to be trusted. In the past, most of the state governors have visibly reneged in keeping to such laws or keeping fate with the masses.
They made those big mistakes because they failed to give an honest accounting of the choices they made. It is also because they knew better but do not have the courage to do better.
Take the minimum wage debacle as an illustration, at the roundtable, the State Governor’s promised to pay workers in their various states the Thirty Thousand Naira agreed on the sum. But after that, most of the Governors failed to keep to that promise.
From the above-given example, we hold the opinion that whatever legitimate and democratic steps the Federal Government thinks that they can take to make judicial antimony see the light of the day enjoys our blessings and support.