From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja and Bimbola Oyesola

Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) has set May deadline for the implementation of financial autonomy for state legislative and judiciary.

Chairman of NGF and Ekiti Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, disclosed this after a meeting of stakeholders on financial autonomy for the judiciary and legislature chaired by Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari at the presidential villa, Abuja, yesterday.  

The meeting was attended by governors Aminu Tambuwal,Sokoto; Simon Lalong,Plateau; Atiku Bagudu,Kebbi and hairman and members Conference of State Assembly Speakers. 

The NGF’s May date came hours after striking judiciary workers suspended its scheduled nationwide protests saying the Federal Government had waded into the matter. 

The workers, under the aegis of Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), had directed its members on Friday to hold  peaceful rallies nationwide along with the ongoing industrial action which had led to the shut down of courts across all states in protest against government’s failure to grant financial autonomy to the judiciary.

The strike is in its second week and has received the backing of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), which  staged a peaceful march at the National Assembly, yesterday, in solidarity with the judiciary workers. Lawyers also hold solidarity rallies across the 36 states.

Abuja lawyers who converged at the Court of Appeal gate before proceeding to the parliament’s complex in their numbers were, however, stopped from entering the Assembly by security operatives.

President of the association, Olumide Akpata, had directed branch chairmen to lead ‘visits’ – which are more like peaceful protests – to government houses in their states over the 36 governors’ alleged unwillingness to implement judiciary’s financial autonomy.

President Muhammadu Buhari had signed an Executive Order granting financial autonomy to the judiciary and State House of Assembly in May 2020, after several agitations.

However, the gazetting of the order was suspended after Buhari met with governors, who later expressed concern over its constitutionality.

Speaking to State House Correspondents after the meeting with stakeholders, Fayemi said: “For us we’re here for legislative and judicial autonomy and the governors, the speakers and the judges are on the same page, as far as this issue is concerned.

“We just emerged from a meeting with the Solicitor-General of the Federation, representatives of the judiciary, representatives of the Conference of Speakers and House of Representatives and we are on all fours. An agreement has been reached. 

“First, the issue is about implementation. There has been no objection from governors on judicial and legislative autonomies. As a matter of fact, it would not have passed if governors were not in support in the first instance, in the state assemblies. 

“So, that issue has been fully and holistically addressed, but we don’t just want to agree to something on paper without working out the modalities for implementation. Thankfully, the meeting we have just emerged from, with the Chief of Staff to the President has worked out the modalities to the satisfaction of all parties.”

General Secretary of JUSUN, Isaiah Adetola, who announced the suspension of the rallies  said the Federal Government through the Ministry of Labour and Employment had invited the union to a meeting today.

“We will honour their invitation and be at the meeting, hear what they have to say. If the meeting is favourable, we may suspend the strike. But if it’s nothing to go by, we will continue our action,” he said.