A handful of governors are furious with President Muhammadu Buhari for granting financial autonomy to the legislative and judicial arms of government in the 36 states of the federation, and are spoiling for showdown discussions.

On Wednesday, May 27, 2020, at exactly 2pm, the governors will meet via teleconference to take a common position and weigh their options.

On Friday, May 22, 2020, President Buhari signed Executive Order No. 10 of 2020 into law.

“Based on the power vested in me under Section 5 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), I, today, signed into law Executive Order No. 10 of 2020 for the implementation of Financial Autonomy of State Legislature and State Judiciary," the president said.

Implication of the order

The executive order means that the legislative and judicial arms of government across the 36 states will no longer be tied to the apron strings of powerful governors; and will receive their financial allocations straight from the center.

Buhari holds meeting with state Governors via video call to discuss COVID-19 response and fiscal measures [Twitter/MBuhari]
Buhari holds meeting with state Governors via video call to discuss COVID-19 response and fiscal measures [Twitter/MBuhari]

The move will also ensure separation of powers in most states; and accord the other arms of government some measure of authority, respectability and independence.

Governors describe Buhari's move as unconstitutional

The Nation newspaper reports that the governors were “shocked'' by the president’s declaration and are spoiling for a fight with Buhari.

They also described the president’s executive order as unconstitutional and a descent into dictatorship.

“The order cannot stand, we will go to court to challenge it,” the newspaper quotes one PDP governor as saying.

“Our party is not opposed to autonomy for the legislature and the judiciary but it must be by a constitution review process.

“But we have a growing pattern of sliding into dictatorship with Executive Orders (EO). We won’t allow the subversion of the 1999 Constitution.”

President Muhammadu Buhari and Governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress meet in Abuja to discuss the crisis rocking the party over chairmanship tussle. [Twitter/@BashirAhmaad]
President Muhammadu Buhari and Governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress meet in Abuja to discuss the crisis rocking the party over chairmanship tussle. [Twitter/@BashirAhmaad]

Another governor was quoted by the newspaper as saying that: “The order was least expected. It is an abuse and a violation of the ongoing talks between the presidency and the governors. We have been working out the type of autonomy models to adopt. And the late Chief of Staff, Mallam Abba Kyari, represented the president at our sessions.

“We are also collaborating with the Conference of Speakers on how to go about the autonomy. I think the presidency should have waited for all these consultations to end.”

Agenda of the meeting

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, who is head of media and public affairs of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), said the governors will meet via teleconference to discuss the president’s action, among other matters.

“Among the issues to be reviewed are a number of critical national questions that revolve around the financial autonomy for the states’ judiciary and legislature code-named the Executive Order 10, 2020,” the statement read.

“The governors will also touch issues around the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) ownership, the controversial National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Bill.

Ekiti state Governor Fayemi (L) and Rivers Governor Wike (R) (TheCable)
Ekiti state Governor Fayemi (L) and Rivers Governor Wike (R) (TheCable)

“Also to be discussed is the restructuring of states’ loans and the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) deductions, which have been a recurring decimal on the governors’ table.

“As usual the governors will be giving an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, as well as review a letter from the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 as it relates to the pandemic draft regulations.”

The president’s latest EO could also mean that state judges will no longer be under duress to hand favorable rulings to sitting governors or their ministries on matters of state.

"Based on this order, where any state of the federation fails to release allocations meant for the state legislature and state judiciary, the accountant-general of the federation shall authorise deduction of the money from source,” the presidency had said.

An amendment ignored

Some state governors have failed to comply with an amendment to section 121 of the 1999 constitution which allows for financial independence for the legislature and judiciary.

Known as the '4th Alteration Act', the amendment was inserted in 2017.

President Muhammadu Buhari meets Leaders of the National Assembly (Presidency)
President Muhammadu Buhari meets Leaders of the National Assembly (Presidency)

The alteration allows for the funding of the state Houses of Assembly directly from the consolidated revenue fund.

It is a substitute for subsection (3) of section 121 of the Principal Act which reads as follows: “Any amount standing to the credit of the judiciary in the consolidated revenue fund of the state shall be paid directly to the heads of the courts concerned."

The new subsection (3) reads thus: ‘‘Any amount standing to the credit of the House of Assembly of the State and Judiciary shall be paid directly to the heads of the courts and the legislature concerned."