States okay financial autonomy for judiciary, legislature
*_Senate: autonomy non-negotiable_*
*_Workers protest in states_*
Workers protest in states
The implementation of financial autonomy for states’ judiciary and legislature will commence before the end of May 2021, Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) has assured.
NGF Chairman Dr Kayode Fayemi, who led other governors and representatives of both the judiciary and legislature to a harmonisation meeting in the office of the Chief of Staff to the President, State House, yesterday evening, said all parties had reached an agreement on the way forward.
The Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) is on strike over financial autonomy for the judiciary.
Dr Fayemi, who is also the governor of Ekiti State, said the implementation would depend on the document being put together.
“We’re here for legislative and judicial autonomy and the governors, the speakers and the judge are on the same page, as far as this issue is concerned.
“We just emerged from a meeting with the Solicitor-General of the Federation, the representatives of the judiciary, the representatives of the Conference of Speakers, and House of Representatives and we are on all fours. An agreement has been reached.
“First, the issue is about implementation. There has been no objection from governors on judicial and legislative autonomies, as a matter of fact, it would not have passed if governors were not in support in the first instance, in the state Assemblies.
“So that issue has been fully and holistically addressed, but we don’t just want to agree to something on paper without working out the modalities for implementation. Thankfully, the meeting we have just emerged from, with the Chief of Staff to the President chairing, has worked out the modalities to the satisfaction of all parties.
“As soon as the final document that is being cleaned up emerges, that is preparatory to implementation. We’re not going to put a timeframe in the air, but it will be implemented as soon as possible, definitely no later than the end of May 2021,” he said.
Appealing to the striking JUSUN and its members, Dr Fayemi said: “In the interest of the nation, we believe that the striking workers should return to their offices because as far as this has gone, we have met with all the parties concerned, the President, through the Chief of Staff, has also been seized of this matter and has been monitoring what has been happening and I think we’re basically at a position where whether you speak to the Conference of Speakers’ chairperson or you speak to me or you speak to the representative of the judiciary or you speak to the Solicitor-General of the Federation, you will hear that we’re speaking with one voice on the implementation and no later than May, you will start seeing the implementation of the agreement that we’ve reached.”
Those at the meeting included Governors Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (Sokoto); Simon Lalong (Plateau); Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi); Chairman, Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies, Abubakar Suleiman; Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Dayo Akpata; and Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Senator Ita Enang.
The Senate has urged governors to grant autonomy to the judiciary.
Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters Chairman Senator Opeyemi Bamidele spoke with reporters in Abuja.
The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) had declared an industrial action and nationwide protests to compel governors to obey the 1999 constitution (as amended) and Executive Order 10 which granted autonomy to the judiciary in the country.
While responding to a question, Opeyemi said: “It is laughable that at this point, we are still grappling with the need to grant independence to the judiciary arm of government at the state and local government levels.
“The National Assembly has been making laws that would guarantee full autonomy to the judiciary at the Federal level.
“The National Assembly does not make laws for the states, such power resides in the state Houses of Assembly.
“Judiciary at the Federal Capital Territory is independent because we have done what we are supposed to do. What is next is for the State Houses of Assembly to do what they are supposed to do.”
Members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) stormed the National Assembly to drive home the bid for financial autonomy for the judiciary.
The lawyers blocked the Federal Secretariat axis entrance of the National Assembly as they were not allowed inside by the security agents on duty.
The NBA, led by the First Vice-President, Mr John Aikpokpo-Martinson, started the protest from its head office in the Central Business District of Abuja to the National Assembly, but they were prevented from entering.
The protesters, nonetheless, blocked the entrance of the National Assembly, saying they would not allow anyone in or out. They dispersed after a couple of hours.
The NBA Ikeja Branch also protested in Lagos.
The Ikeja lawyers led by their Chairman, Bartholomew Aguegbodo, took off from Ikeja Bar Centre and marched through Oba Akinjobi Way, Oba Akran Avenue into Obafemi Awolowo Way and marched on Alausa secretariat to present their letter of demand to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
They had a brief stop at Allen/Obafemi Awolowo roundabout where the Ikeja NBA Chairman, Aguegbodo took minutes, to educate the public that their action was to ensure a better judiciary for the people of the state.
By the time the protesting lawyers got to Alausa Secretariat, the gate of the Government House was already shut against them by security agents who barricaded the road and prevented them from accessing the Governor’s office. There were about one-hour heated arguments between the NBA Ikeja leadership and three different Directors from the governor’s office who came at a different time to convince the Ikeja NBA to hand over its letter to them for the attention of the governor.
But the lawyers stood their ground that they will only deliver the letter of the Bar to the Governor directly or an officer in his office.
The lawyers were later prevailed upon to send their representatives to go into the government house to drop the letter.
A four-man team, including the Chairman, Aguegbodo, two former chairmen, Monday Ubani and Adesina Ogunlana and Chibuzor Agwocha, was later agreed on and allowed to proceed inside to deliver their letter of demands for financial autonomy for the judiciary in the state.
Four other branches of the NBA in Lagos, namely Lagos, Ikorodu, Epe and Badagry will today protest at the Governors’ office in line with the directive from the NBA President, Olumide Akpata.
The Chairman, Plateau State Chapter of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Yakubu Bawa, warned that unless governors grant the judicial autonomy, strike and protest would continue.
“We intended to again storm the Government House, Little Rayfield today as a follow up to what we did last Thursday, but decided to give the government a breathing space,” he said.
In Delta, the Forum of Branch Chairmen of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Delta State, issued a one-week ultimatum to the Delta State government to implement judicial autonomy.
The lawyers joined the striking judiciary workers and the state chapter of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) in a protest march along major streets in Asaba.
There were also protests in Ondo, Kwara, Yobe, Edo, Abia, Ekiti, Rivers and Benue.
Governor Nyesom Wike said the protest was useless because Rivers was already implementing judicial autonomy.