Governors on Tuesday rejected the Executive Order by President Muhammadu Buhari for the implementation of financial autonomy for state Legislature and Judiciary.
They clarified that while the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) is not against the implementation of the law on financial autonomy, they would not be stampeded by the Order.
According to the governors, the President’s Executive Order 10 is not required for the implementation of the financial autonomy they jointly facilitated.
The governors said they were not consulted before the President enacted the order.
Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong spoke with reporters in Abuja on behalf of the forum, after the NGF’s meeting with visiting French Minister of Foreign Trade and Attractiveness, Franck Riester.
Executive Order 10 was issued by the President on May 10, last year.
On Monday, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami said the Federal Government was determined to push through the content of EO 10. “No going back”, he said in Sokoto.
But Lalong insisted that the Executive order was unnecessary.
He attributed the confusion over financial autonomy for state Legislature and Judiciary, which led to the strike by court workers across the country, to misconception by those who confused the financial autonomy law with the Executive Order 10.
He said the implementation of the law would be preceded by discussions and agreement by stakeholders.
Lalong said the issues that arose from previous discussions will be fully resolved at the meeting scheduled for today.
The Plateau State governor, who was invited by his Ekiti State counterpart and Chairman of NGF Dr. Kayode Fayemi, to address the question on financial autonomy and court workers’ strike, emphasised that the NGF was not comfortable with Executive Order 10.
He noted that autonomy was not entirely about money, but putting necessary measures to strengthen the other two arms of government at the state level.
Lalong said: “For us the governors, we are saying no. We are going to do implementation. You don’t need Order 10 to force us to do implementation. So, we don’t need Order 10. We are already working on the law of implementation, because the federal government cannot tell us how to implement. We are doing the implementation.
“People don’t know the difference between Order 10 and the law on financial autonomy. What we are having meetings on, which we are going to conclude tomorrow, is about financial autonomy. It is not about Order 10. Order 10, of course, is subjudice now, because it is in court.
“But, we are not bothered about Order 10. We are talking about the implementation of the financial autonomy law. I was a Speaker. We started it in 1999. Today, I am a governor. And I know how the governors agreed and brought in financial autonomy.
“It was a law agreed by the governors, who said go and pass it. Otherwise. it would not have been passed. We brought it up during every constitutional amendment. But, by the time we got there, we all agreed, as governors, and said let us pass it in our states and we passed it. So, who is the one that is crying more than the bereaved?
“We are the ones most affected. All these things affect us. I am a lawyer and I will want the Judiciary to be autonomous. I have been a legislator. I was not only a legislator, I was a Speaker and Chairman of Former Speakers Conference up till today. So, I will want autonomy for them. I am a member of the Executive today.
“So, in essence, it is about strengthening the institutions. People are thinking it is about money. It is not about money; it is about strengthening the institutions,” he said.
On why the governors were delaying in implementing the law, Lalong said: “We are not foot-dragging. We were not consulted when the Executive Order came. When you are talking about implementation, you are talking about processes. You don’t wake up and say because a law is passed, it must be applied. There must be processes.
“For instance, as a Speaker, I will tell you that you cannot do financial autonomy until you have a Service Commission in place. You must establish a Service Commission; you must establish a State Allocation Committee. And all these are steps towards autonomy. You cannot achieve autonomy in a day.
“We did it in the National Assembly and there was no Order 10 for implementation. It took them stages. The Federal Government is aware. Some members of the National Assembly then are today, governors. How can they say they don’t want autonomy? Today, we have seven governors, who were members of the National Assembly, who fought for autonomy and got it for the National Assembly.”
Lalong said the attainment of autonomy is a process that cannot be enforced by the mere enactment of Executive Order. He said since it is democracy, the issue would be resolved through dialogue.
He added: “We have had useful dialogue with both the representatives of the Judiciary and the state Speakers. Yesterday, they were in my state and we all agreed. By tomorrow (Wednesday) we are going to round it off with all the representatives of the Judiciary, the state Legislature and other stakeholders.”
The French Minister said France was ready to assist Nigeria to address its security challenge, adding that President Emmanuel Macron was following developments in the country.
Riester, who said his visit was a follow-up to Macron’s visit to Nigeria in July 2018, said his visit was also intended to explore ways of improving trade relations between both countries.
He noted that Nigeria is France’s first commercial partner in sub-Saharan Africa, with bilateral trade standing at $4.5billion in 2019, but reduced to $2.3b in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
France, he added, is a major financial partner for Nigeria, being the second bilateral creditor of Nigeria after China, due to the involvement of French Development Agency (FDA), which has engaged in more than two billion Euros in the last 10 years in over 35 development projects.