By Chesa Chesa
The current practice of some State Governors warehousing the appropriated budgetary capital funds of the various State Judiciary and Legislature while releasing only the recurrent expenditure, has been abolished.
Also, both Capital and Recurrent Expendituee as approved in the Annual Budget of the State must henceforth be released monthly on a pro–rata basis by the Accountant General of the State, directly to the Heads of the Legislature and the Judiciary, and Heads of Judicial Service Committee or Commission.
These were some of the resolutions reached at a two-day stakeholders retreat on strategies for the implementation of financial autonomy of States’ Legislature and Judiciary; organised by the Presidential Implementation Committee, chaired by Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, in Abuja.
Already, the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) has affirmed its readiness to effect the relevant legal provisions concerning these as from June 1, next month.
This followed the widespread observation that the financial autonomy to States’ Legislature and Judiciary, granted by the Section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration), including direct release of funds to them, is honored by the various State Governments, more in breach, than in compliance.
Besides, records showed that the Judiciary in some states got as low as 0.6 percent of the entire state Budget, while the highest was 4.89 percent of the Budget, according to the communique issued at the end of the retreat, as made available by the panel Secretary, and Presidential Liaison on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang.
The stakeholders at the retreat further resolved that a State Allocation Committee be established by each governor, comprising the Commissioner of Finance, the Accountant General of the State, the Clerk of the State House of Assembly, the Chief Registrars of High Courts, Sharia Court of Appeal and Customary Courts, the Secretary of the Judicial Service Commission/Committee and the Secretary of the State Assembly Service Commission if any, to mutually decide the funds to be allocated to each arm of government.
The Communique in full resolved “to adopt the Budgeting model operating at the Federal level where the sum due to the Judiciary and the Legislature are captured as first line Charge in the Budget laid before and passed by the Legislature.
“That the Budget proposal of the Legislature and Judiciary should be defended before the relevant Committees of the Legislature;
“That the total sum, both Capital and Recurrent, approved in the Annual Budget of the State, be released monthly on a pro–rata basis by the Accountant General of the State, directly to the Heads of the Legislature and the Judiciary, and Heads of Judicial Service Committee or Commission;
“That the budgeted sum, Capital and Recurrent howsoever described, be released to the Judiciary to be spent by the Judiciary on the projects, programmes and capital development of the Judiciary, including recruitment and training of personnel. And so for the Legislature;
“That the current practice in some States where appropriated Recurrent Expenditure due the Judiciary and Legislature in the budget, are released to the Judiciary and Legislature and the Capital components are warehoused in the Executive is hereby abolished;
“That the Model Budget Template of the Judiciary and Legislature, the strata of line consultations and inter Arms, as well as Inter-Agency pre-budget consultations and front loading as already done in some states, be adopted;
“That the Nigeria Governors’ Forum is appreciated for its commitment to the implementation of the financial autonomy of State Legislature and State Judiciary in Accordance with the 4th Alteration to the 1999 Constitution (as amended);
“There shall be created a State Allocation Committee comprising the Commissioner of Finance, the Accountant General of the State, the Clerk of the State House of Assembly, the Chief Registrars of High Courts, Sharia Court of Appeal and Customary Courts, the Secretary of the Judicial Service Commission/Committee and the Secretary of the State Assembly Service Commission if any, for the purpose of determining the amount due to each Arm of Government based on the budgetary provision but subject to the funds available to the State;
“The retirement benefit and pensions of judicial officers of Superior Courts of records in the State should be paid by the National Judicial Council as they receive their salaries and allowances from the NJC while in office;
“Encourage all State Houses of Assembly to pass Funds Management Law or Budget Process Law by whatever name called, as a legal framework that will ensure judicious budgeting and use of funds accrued to the State.”
Apart from Malami and Enang, other stakeholders that signed the communique include chairmen of Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Judiciary; some state chief judges; Accountant General of the Federation; Secretary, National Judicial Council; President of Customary Court of Appeal, Grand Khadi of Sharia Court; Chairman, Conference of State Assembly Speakers.
Others are Nigeria Bar Association; Body of Clerks, Commissioners of Finance; civil society groups; Body of Chief Judges of States; Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN); Nigerian Governors Forum; and Parliamentary Association of Nigeria.