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Buhari’s Executive Order 10 subverts federal system, Nwabueze insists

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Constitutional lawyer, Professor Ben Nwabueze, yesterday said the Executive Order 10 issued by President Muhammadu Buhari was a subversion of the federal system.

Citing Section 5 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Nigerian leader had on May 20 this year exercised his powers to confer financial autonomy on state legislatures and judiciaries.

But the elder statesman, in his submission, argued that the alleged high-handedness of the governors and the perceived anomalies in the system notwithstanding, the sanity should not have come through an executive order.

According to him, “the Fourth Alteration to the Constitution (Act No. 7) of 2018 was aimed at stopping it, so far as concerns monies meant for the state Houses of Assembly but neither adds to nor subtracts from the financial autonomy already granted to the judiciary by the pre-existing Section 121(3) of the constitution.”

The modification, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said, granted financial autonomy to the state legislative chambers but “lumped it together with the financial autonomy of the state judiciaries as it existed under Section 121(3) before the Fourth Alteration in 2018.”

He noted that it was not clear why the “Fourth Alteration chose this rather confusing way to bring about the change.” Nwabueze stressed that be that as it may, the issue for determination was “whether it is constitutionally competent for President Buhari to implement the State Houses of Assembly’s financial autonomy by means of Executive Order 10 issued by him in his capacity as head of the executive arm of the Federal Government.”

He went on: “Granted that the financial autonomy of the State Houses of Assembly should be protected against (alleged) diversion of their money by the state governors, by what means and at what cost should this be done? Should it be by means of an Executive Order made by the President as a sole individual in his capacity as head of the executive arm of the Federal Government? Executive Orders are something new in Nigeria, and their constitutional boundaries, as a form of legislation, are yet to be delineated and defined.

“In making the Executive Order 10, the President relied on Section 5(1) of the constitution as authority for making it. Does the subsection in fact confer such authority?” The professor consequently declared the order as null and void “by the operation of the opening words of the subsection.”

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