Nigeria: Storm Over Buhari's Executive Order On State Legislature, Judiciary

President Muhammadu Buhari (file photo).

Mixed reactions have continued to trail President Muhammadu Buhari's Executive Order 10 on financial autonomy for state legislature and judiciary.

The order which was signed on Friday, May 22, 2019, came months after the president assented to the Fourth Constitution Alteration Bill passed by the Eighth Assembly; granting financial autonomy and independence to state legislature and judiciary.

To sign the order, Buhari said he drew his powers from Sections 5 and 121(3) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution 1999.

However, a cross section of lawyers have urged President Buhari to commence the process of constitutional amendment rather than signing executive orders.

A lawyer, Paul Ananaba (SAN), who noted that executive orders did not respect the principle of separation of power, said, "I think it requires more; which has to do with looking at the constitution."

Another lawyer, Hameed Ajibola Jimoh, views the executive order as a subsidiary legislation, and the issue of autonomy as a matter of the Constitution of Nigeria.

Jimoh said, "Necessary amendment of the appropriate sections of the constitution is the appropriate step to take in granting autonomy; not by executive order.

"Constitutionally, the executive does not make law, rather, it formulates policies which must not be inconsistent with either the constitution or an act of the National Assembly."

Ezugwu Emmanuel Anene Esq. said the constitution had spelt out the powers of the three arms of government, thus describing the presidential action as anti-democratic.

Anene said, "The Executive Order 10, 2020, however well-intentioned as it may seem, remains illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and of no effect so long as the 1999 Constitution remains as it is at the moment."

John Ochogwu Esq. said if there was an act already passed which covered the issue of autonomy for state legislature and judiciary, the executive order was unnecessary.

Chris Onwuekwe Esq said, "I don't think the executive order is necessary in this case. Once the act is passed by the National Assembly and assented by the president, it takes effect automatically from the commencement, hence, does not require any executive order."

Also reacting, Obioma Ezenwobodo Esq, said autonomy for a state legislature and the judiciary was very desirable considering the way state governors had emasculated the two arms of government.

Onwuekwe further said, "But I will prefer that this autonomy is brought about by constitutional provisions rather than an executive order or an act of the National Assembly. This is based on the fact that they are constitutional issues that can only be addressed by constitutional amendment."

Like the lawyers, some lawmakers have also faulted Buhari's action.

Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South) said there was no rationale for an executive order on a constitutional matter.

Abaribe, who is the Senate Minority Leader, said the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, should have written state attorneys general and advised them to implement the new law.

The lawmaker said, "If something is passed into law already, I do not see the rationale for an executive order. What I think Malami should have done is to write all state attorneys general and point out the law/constitutional amendment and advice the implementation as due."

A member of the House of Representatives (APC, Kafur/Malumfashi, Katsina State)Ibrahim Babangida, said the executive order signed by the president was in order, he however faulted the presentation which portrayed the order as an executive fiat.

Babangida said, "The presentation of the whole thing despite the reference made to the relevant section of the constitution was wrong. It should have been stated clearly that the order is for the implementation of the existing amended law which is already in the constitution instead of presenting it like a law unilaterally enacted by the president."

Another Rep, Solomon Bulus Maren (PDP, Bokkos/Mangu, Plateau State) hailed Buhari's decision, saying it shows that the executive was ready to implement the law, regarding the autonomy for houses of assembly.

It's in order - Malami

However, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) said the president's action was in order.

"An executive order is meant to complement an existing legislation by way of lending executive might to ensure effective implementation of a legislation.

" It is the international norm in the democratic process which is internationally recognized where inter agency support is usually necessary to give effect to an existing legislation. Executive Order provides an impetus for responsibility among the institutions charged with the execution of legislation, " Malami stated through his media aide, Dr Umar Gwandu.

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