The Fourth Alteration to the 1999 Nigerian Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which gave autonomy to the state legislature and Judiciary in a bill signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, is one instrument that many Nigerians say will test the character and competence of the officials of the two key institutions.
The amendment specifically meant the granting of financial autonomy and independence to Houses of Assembly and judiciary in the states. Hitherto, the funds allocated to them from the Federation Account go through the State Governments most of whom don’t transmit same to them.
The law in essence, permits the funds due to the judiciary to be paid directly to the judiciary of those states, no more through the governors.
It is unfortunate that since the bill was assented to, the law has not been allowed to operate in the spirit and wordings it was meant to serve, due mainly to the awesome influences of State executive governors.
While commending the State governors’ pledge recently to implement full autonomy for state legislatures and the judiciary, it is essential to observe that it will strengthen democracy in the states. It will also promote accountability and transparency in governance.
Needless, however, to state that we abhor the roles played by the State governors in the over one year when this law was put in abeyance.
Now, that the new law will be made to operate with the support of State governors, we expect the State’s Legislature and Judiciary to demonstrate sense of maturity, prudence and accountability in the management of funds that will be allotted to them.
Nothing short of this will be justified in the eye of the members of the public who have in the last decade craved for the independence of Judiciary and State Houses of Assembly.
It is important to sound note of warning that the electorate who are distressed by the unjustifiable bogus salaries and allowances of national lawmakers will not welcome such unwholesome practices at the state level.
On the part of the States’ Judiciary, it is an opportunity for the heads of Court in the States, indeed the judges to allay the fears of State governors that even without a string of financial control over them attached, they can deliver justice.
Financial autonomy to the States Judiciary should therefore not be harmed by reckless spending and fraudulent financial malpractices by the judiciary officials. Attempt to engage on such reckless spending would further put the Judiciary into public disrepute and loss of confidence.
The same charge goes to the legislature across the states, particularly the principal officers.
In conclusion, we plead with the states governors to stand by their words of promise and to allow the autonomy granted by the Fourth Alteration to the Constitution to the State Legislatures and Judiciary to operate. After all, they have sworn to uphold the Constitution.