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Some Governors run states as fiefdoms, says Dogara

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Lack of autonomy of key Institutions of democracy especially at the state levels has been the bane of Nigeria’s democracy, Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon Yakubu Dogara, has said.

…Legislature, Judiciary meant to work with, not for Executive

Lack of autonomy of key Institutions of democracy especially at the state levels has been the bane of Nigeria’s democracy, Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon Yakubu Dogara, has said.

Saraki, Dogara and Buhari
Saraki, Dogara and Buhari

Delivering a goodwill message at a conference on autonomy of state legislature in Abuja Thursday, Hon. Dogara also argued that based on the doctrine of separation of powers, the Legislature and the Judiciary are meant to work with and not for the Executive arm of government.

“Lack of autonomy of these key Institutions at the state levels has been the bane of our democracy. It is the main reason why there are no effective checks on Governors most of whom run the States as fiefdoms.”

“Since more funds from the Federation Account go to the States and Local Government Areas than to the Federal Government, lack of autonomy of the State Legislature and the judiciary means that such humongous allocations would continue to be wasted by State Executives who have mastered the art of pocketing both the legislature and the judiciary.”

See full speech below:

GOODWILL MESSAGE BY HIS EXCELLENCY, RT. HON. YAKUBU DOGARA, SPEAKER, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT A CONFERENCE ORGANISED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ON AUTONOMY OF STATE LEGISLATURE AND JUDICIARY HELD IN ABUJA, ON THURSDAY, 16TH MAY, 2019.

Protocols:

I am delighted to be invited to present a Goodwill Message to this august gathering of eminent jurists, legislators, members of the Executive branch and participants on a very important topic which is central to the effectiveness of our practice of constitutional democracy in Nigeria, namely: The Financial Autonomy of State Legislature and the Judiciary.

2. My brief interrogation is to actually determine the appropriate subject under discussion. In this regard, we note, that the financial autonomy of the Judiciary was first introduced by the 1999 Constitution in Sections 81(3) for the Federation and 121(3) thereof, for the States as same was not provided for under the 1963 and 1979 Constitutions.

Section 81(3)of the 1999 Constitution says: “Any amount standing to the credit of the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation shall be paid directly to the National Judicial Council for disbursement to the heads of the courts established for the Federation and the State under section 6 of this Constitution”.

Section 121(3)provides: “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”.

3. It is vital to note that the Fourth Alteration No. 4, Act of 2017did not introduce the concept of first line charge for the judiciary as it already existed under the Constitution. It only introduced the financial autonomy for the state legislature, by merely substituting the existing provision with a new provision and adding House of Assembly of the States.

4. For the avoidance of doubt, the 4th Alteration Act states:

An Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to provide for the funding of the Houses of Assembly of States directly from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State; and for related Matters…

2. Section 121 of the Principal Act is altered by substituting for subsection (3), a new subsection “3” –

(“3”) Any amount standing to the credit of the –

(a) House of Assembly of the State; and

(b) Judiciary;

in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State shall be paid directly to the said bodies respectively; in the case of judiciary, such amount shall be paid directly to the heads of the courts concerned”.

5. With respect to the Legislature, the 1963 and 1979 Constitutions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria did not contain any provisions on the autonomy of the Legislature. However, by the First Alteration Act, 2010, the financial autonomy of the National Assembly was enacted. Curiously, State Assemblies refused to approve the financial autonomy for State Legislature , until the 4th Alteration exercise.

6. Our understanding of the Alteration and the practical effect of the provision is that the Judiciary and the Legislature both in the States and at the Federal level are placed on first line charge in the disbursement of Appropriated funds. In other words, any money duly appropriated by the National Assembly or State Houses of Assembly, for the Judiciary or Legislature is completely and directly released first to them before any other government Ministry, Department and Agencies (MDA) will assess their own funds. The Executive branch has no discretion on the question of whether the funds will be released. It does not have discretion as to the percentage to be released once funds are available in the Consolidated Revenue Funds of the Federation or States.

7. Apart from the constitutional provisions on first line charge, it may be necessary that the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly introduce and pass legislations on the practical implementation of the constitutional provisions. This Committee and the Conference are equipped with the necessary intellectual resources to activate and achieve this. I must, therefore, commend the Kaduna State House of Assembly that passed a Bill on the Financial Autonomy of the Legislature following the 4th Alteration Bill. I recommend that Bill with necessary modifications to both the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly.

8. It must be noted that financial autonomy of the Judiciary and Legislature is an incident of the doctrine of Separation of Powers enshrined in Section 4, 5 and 6 of the Constitution. The authors of the Constitution and the philosophy embedded in the Constitution is that each branch of government, namely – legislature, executive and the judiciary should be fairly autonomous and independent in its operations. A situation where one branch controls the finances of the other branches is manifestly subversive of the separation of powers doctrine and patently unconstitutional. Each branch of government should hire and fire its personnel, procure the goods and services necessary for its effective functioning without interference from any other branch. This is important in preserving and safeguarding our constitutional democracy and freedom.

9. Lack of autonomy of these key Institutions at the state levels has been the bane of our democracy. It is the main reason why there are no effective checks on Governors most of whom run the States as fiefdoms. Since more funds from the Federation Account go to the States and Local Government Areas than to the Federal Government, lack of autonomy of the State Legislature and the judiciary means that such humongous allocations would continue to be wasted by some State Executives who have mastered the art of pocketing both the legislature and the judiciary. I must therefore thank the federal Government for recognizing this malady in our democracy and setting up this committee to ensure it is remedied by drawing up a framework for ease of compliance by States with the Constitutional provision.

10. I must however, caution that autonomy and independence also entails accountability as funds available to the Legislature or Executive or Judiciary are public funds. An accountability mechanism must be instituted by each branch to ensure value for money and enthronement of good governance. All branches of government must develop constructive relations with each other in order to ensure a smooth and workable system. No branch should lord it over the other or assume a position of superiority over the other. They are all co-equal branches of government set up for public good. I have always said that the Legislature and the Judiciary are meant to work with, not for the Executive.

11. In the words of Karibi-Whyte, J.S.C, in Attorney General of the Federation Vs. Guardian Newspapers Ltd:“A notable feature of the amended Constitution … is the distribution of the exercise of government functions among the three principal and separate departments of the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The Constitution also prescribed scope and limits for each department and that within its jurisdiction, the exercise of power is supreme. Accordingly, implicit in the power so vested, the one was not to interfere in the exercise of power of the other, except to the extent to which the Constitution confers such power of interference. This is the hallowed principle of the separation of powers first formulated by Montesquieu and now nearly perfected in the Constitution. … As a general rule therefore, except otherwise expressly provided or incidental to powers conferred, the legislature cannot exercise either executive or judiciary power; the judiciary cannot exercise either executive or legislative power …” I regret to say that this is not the case with our democracy which is anything but far from the idea of a limited Government. As long as one branch of Government possesses the power to act in the absence of explicit legislative authorization, so long we will continue to endure a dysfunctional democracy.

12. Finally, I wish to admonish the practitioners and operators of the three arms of government to deploy institutional prerogatives with forbearance as no individual has ever survived reckless deployment of the coercive instruments of State. Misuse of power has always been and will always remain a sweet poison that kills by a thousand bites. More so, one may be a member of the Executive or Judiciary today, and belong to the Legislature tomorrow. We as leaders must always do those things that will build and sustain key institutions of government.

13. This is a matter that we cannot play with. We must run our democracy according to the rules. If we don’t strengthen our institutions, our democracy will continue to struggle. It is said that, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”. Without an independent Legislature and Judiciary at all levels of government, we will be left with no democratic tools with which to maintain that eternal vigilance. In the end democracy does not work, it is vigilant citizens that make democracy work.

14. I wish you all very informed, constructive and fruitful deliberations

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