Judicial Autonomy: Govs more powerful than Buhari – APC chieftain

President Muhammadu Buhari

…They are lazy, selfish, opposed to restructuring

…They control state legislature,  judiciary, Local govts, appoint ministerial nominees, ambassadors, spend state funds the way they like

…Buhari should sign another Executive order mandating State Accountants-General to release judiciary money to them directly or face EFCC

By Omeiza Ajayi

Lawyer and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC, Dr Daniel Bwala has slammed state Governors for their hypocritical attitude towards Restructuring, describing them as lazy, selfish and only concerned about their personal issues.

Speaking on The Morning Show on Arise TV on Friday, Bwala said it was selfish of the governors to continue to operate in complete disregard for the Presidential Executive Order 10 which gives expression to the constitutionally guaranteed financial autonomy of the judiciary.

The governors had said while they were not opposed to the Executive Order Number 10 as signed last year by President Muhammadu Buhari, they would not be stampeded into abiding by it in their relationship with the judicial arm of government in their various states.

Consequently, the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria JUSUN had been on strike in several states of the federation for about two weeks while court activities are grounded as a result of the attitude of the governors.

According to Bwala; “The Executive Order 10 as couched can, literally, create a bit of confusion because of the mixture of two things, for example the preamble up to the first order, I believe is constitutional and is pursuant to the provisions of the constitution if you look at Section 5. But, from Number 2 of the Executive Order that runs down, they are matters that can be debated because they look like directing the states, and if it is so, it must be by an Act of the National Assembly because if the President proceeds on that, then it will amount to what we call Executive-Legislation”.

He berated the Governors for saying they were waiting for the president to come back to the country so they could find a political solution to the issue.

“They know for a fact that if they take on the president directly to the Supreme Court for interpretation, if the court interprets in favour of the federal government, they have completely lost their powers as far as the judiciary and legislature are concerned, forever. They would rather that they find a political solution. And in my view, they are able of cowing  the president into conceding to say ‘okay, let’s see how we can implement it’. I advise the president to insist on implementation and that they can sue his federal government to the Supreme Court if they do not want to implement the Order.

“This autonomy we are talking about is to the lawmakers and to the judiciary in the states the same way it has been replicated at the federal level. And, what is restructuring? These are ingredients of restructuring that the governors have clamoured for. You cannot approbate and reprobate. You cannot be asking for devolution of powers when you cannot concede powers within your level.

“Apart from Section 251 of the constitution which provides for a federal high court jurisdiction on matters that affect the government of the Federation, all other matters not covered by that section are within the wider powers of the state High Courts. And, how can the state high courts continue to dispense justice without the influence of the governors when their finances are being controlled?

“Sometimes you watch the television and governors will give cars to judges and parade the judges like criminals. These are money that should have gone to the judiciary direct and they determine the application. Have you seen where state assemblies stand up to their governors in the last 10 years? Is that the restructuring we are talking about? Restructuring is when the arms and instruments of government are empowered to operate independent of the other and if the governors cannot support this, then I do not think the governors should have the audacity and temerity to bring about the issue of devolution of powers at the federal level.

“How can you appropriate money for the judiciary and then continue to use the money for them? Sometimes they don’t even see it”.

“I am even advising the president to proceed beyond this and sign another Executive Order mandating the EFCC to begin to prosecute the Accountant General of States when they fail to release directly to the respective heads of those bodies money that are released because they are in violation of the constitution. EFCC can bring an amendment to its Act to criminalize that. By the time every Accountant General you appoint is being prosecuted, the governors would have to do something.

Bwala said Nigerian Governors are lazy, yet more power than the President.

He said; “These governors rule the states like personal enterprise. They give what they want and they don’t give what they don’t want to give. Nobody questions them

“We have lazy governors who are only concerned about themselves, not even their states. Ordinarily, in the last eight to 10 months since the signing of this Order, if it were in other climes, somebody would have rushed to the Supreme Court and in this case, it is the governors because the president has a dominant power. The governors are supposed to approach the Supreme Court to seek interpretation.

“In this country, even under the current framework of the constitution, people do not know that the governors are more powerful than the president. The governor in his state determines who becomes local government chairman. We have been fighting for their autonomy but the local governments were so intimidated that even when amendment was brought to their own favour, they rejected it. State Assemblies were also intimidated into rejecting their own autonomy until recently that they accepted. The Judiciary is not in a position to come out and talk. Governors appoint judicial officers. The governor determines who becomes a legislator in his state, the local government chairmen, then who becomes a House of Representatives member or Senator. If at the party level you want to reduce their powers and say you want direct primary, they will kill heaven and earth to ensure they have their ways. They control the National Assembly. Then at the level of the federal executive, they nominate who becomes minister, ambassadors and heads of MDAs. Even in the federal cabinet, they can undermine the president through the agents that they nominated. At the National Assembly, they can undermine the Executive through the people they endorse to go there. Then when you come down to the power of the purse, in the states, there is no machinery alive that can checkmate what they do.

“So, the powers of the governor in terms of accountability is left until after eight years when he has done what he wanted and has gone, then the EFCC will begin to scramble for whatever they can get. The governors have enormous powers in Nigeria and now they are asking for more powers but power should go along with responsibility. The president cannot act on many issues without the national assembly. Likewise, the Judiciary is there to reverse him on certain issues. It is not so for governors.

“Does the president have powers to sign an Executive Order? Yes. And the support is found in Section 5 of the constitution. The scope of his powers is the federation of Nigeria which includes the federal capital and the states in some cases.

“Subsection 1 says subject to the provisions of this constitution, the Executive powers of the federation shall be vested in the president. That power he exercises through himself, or the vice, ministers or public officers of the Federation. But Subsection 2 now prescribes specific powers which are powers that are granted by an Act of the National Assembly or that are although today not enacted but which the National Assembly has the power to enact and such other powers. Now, Executive Order is flowing from Subsection 1 which is the power to give effect to the Constitution.

“What the president sought to enforce in Section 121(3) which states that money that is charged to the House of Assembly or to the Judiciary shall be paid directly to them. This is self commanding, meaning that every governor within the federation must see to it that the constitution is enforced by ensuring that money appropriated in the budget for these two arms of government at the state level should be sent to them directly. However, since last year when this Order was signed, seeing that only five states or thereabouts were able to implement grudgingly, the rest of the states have failed to do that and this is the only time you find all the governors being unanimous and bipartisan. That explains the selfishness with which governors run the states.

“Look at the constitution, where it expressly provides for an act to be performed by a governor, if the governor fails go perform the act, the constitution has not specifically stated what should be done. It is in this kind of scenario that the president invokes the inherent powers that he has because he has a duty to enforce and maintain the constitution. The good thing about separation of powers is that it can always be reviewed by a court as to whether he had gone beyond his bounds or not. But you can see that the governor’s do not necessy want to go to the Supreme Court because the reason they don’t want to go is that they know that the court will almost always interpret Executive Orders as constitutional, giving effect to Section 121(3).

“The part where the president might have a problem if the matter goes to the Supreme Court is from Number 2 downwards because those ones are specific instructions on how the states should form committees and do other things. The federal government under separation of powers cannot give such directives except that is forwarded to the National Assembly to enact into law.

“The president can invoke his powers to order the Accountant General of the Federation to deduct from source and charge directly to the relevant arms of the state”, Bwala added.