Speakers meet Buhari, demand executive order on autonomy
The Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria yesterday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to issue an executive order on the implementation of full autonomy for state legislatures.
Addressing reporters after the speakers held a closed-door meeting with Buhari at the Presidential Villa, the chairman of the conference, Mudashiru Obasa, said the group also sought a review of items on the exclusive list to grant more economic power to states.
Obasa, who is the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, said although the amended 1999 constitution incorporated independence and financial autonomy for state legislatures, it was not being implemented in many states.
“So, we are urging Mr. President to intervene and speed up the implementation. We urged the president to come in by executive order for this implementation to move faster,” Obasa said.
He said the group also discussed the poor state of roads, education, health and security, noting that with the devolution of powers, some items could be removed from the exclusive to the concurrent list. He said the issue of allowing states to have their own arrangement for tackling insecurity also featured in the deliberations.
Asked why the speakers would complain over autonomy when there was already a law in place, Obasa said their complaint was not against governors but rather that the implementation had not been done in all the states. He disclosed, however, that some governors had already commenced the implementation and that the speakers were in discussions with them.
The Speakers of Edo, Bayelsa and Oyo States Houses of Assembly were absent from the meeting. The Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila, Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha and Chief of Staff to President Abba Kyari were in attendance.
According to Buhari, while receiving the speakers, the constitution upholds the standard for all public officers and institutional operations, saying it must be adhered to or altered to reflect the realities of the country. “I try as much as I can to always be loyal and obedient to the constitution so long as it is humanly possible,” he said.
A statement by Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina quoted the president as saying his administration would keep pursuing the prosperity of all Nigerians by creating more jobs for the people and plugging the weaknesses exploited by many to make quick money.
“The 8th National Assembly sometimes kept the budget for seven months. And I had to call the Senate president and the speaker then. I told them by delaying the passage of the budget you are not hurting Buhari, but the people,” he said. According to him, the delay persisted despite his efforts to seek a better understanding.
The president said he would ensure equity and fairness and put ordinary Nigerians on top priority. He promised to focus on health, education, infrastructure and improving lives through social intervention programmes.
“We have in the last four years dedicated significant resources to key social services sectors especially in health, education as well as our massive social investment programmes. We have also started restoring our infrastructure to levels that this country expects.
“I also want to assure you that we remain committed to ensuring that equity and fairness prevail in governance. I will ensure that we consult your conference to further enhance the positive impact of our interventions across the country,” Buhari said.
Buhari in March had inaugurated the Presidential Implementation Committee on Autonomy of State Legislature and State Judiciary. He explained that the setting up of the committee was necessitated by the realisation that legislative and judicial autonomy was a necessary pre-condition for the nation’s democracy to endure.
According to him, the committee is expected to foster an effective implementation of the autonomy constitutionally granted the state legislature and judiciary under the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“It is my hope that when this is done, there will be proper checks and balances, and the state legislature and judiciary shall be genuinely empowered to carry out their respective constitutional duties without fear of dominance and or marginalisation.
“The legislature, being the closest arm of government to the people, and the judiciary as the last hope of the common man, must both be seen to be sufficiently independent to perform their respective constitutional roles without any interference, let or hindrance. In this regard, ensuring that these organs of government enjoy financial autonomy will further enhance their efficiency and independence,” he said.
The president maintained that his administration was committed to “strengthening our democracy by ensuring the separation of powers among the three arms of the Nigerian government, even at the state levels.”
He said his administration had identified the need to sustain the constitutionally guaranteed federal system of government by building capabilities not only at the federal level but also at all the federating units.
“This committee has therefore been set up, as a major reform of this administration, to ensure that the autonomy granted to the legislature and judiciary at the state levels is maintained, pursuant to Section 161 of the 4th Alteration to the 1999 Constitution (as Amended),” he added.
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