The adjustment made by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) on the agreement reached between governors and the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, on how to implement financial autonomy for state judiciaries and legislatures stalled the negotiation between the federal government and the striking judiciary workers, THISDAY’s investigation has revealed.

But it was learnt that President Muhammadu Buhari has intervened to resolve the raging crisis.
The judicial workers have been on strike since April 6 to pressure governors to implement the law granting financial autonomy to state judiciaries and legislatures.

A meeting between the leadership of the striking workers’ union, the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and the federal government ended in a stalemate on Tuesday as the union walked out in protest over the delay in commencing the meeting.

The workers’ strike, however, got the backing of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, yesterday with him saying that the reasons for their actions were genuine.
The agitation by the JUSUN and Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) for financial autonomy for the judiciary and legislative arms of government in the states had led to the shutdown of courts nationwide for the second week running.

At a meeting between Gambari and the governors on Monday, both parties agreed on resolving the dispute, with the governors proposing May timeline for the commencement of the implementation of the autonomy.

But a presidency source told THISDAY yesterday that before the proposals by the governors were tabled before the leadership of JUSUN and PASAN for consideration last Tuesday, it was discovered that the governors had made some adjustments to their proposal.

The source said: “They reached an agreement in a meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President and when they came to the Ministry of Labour and Employment for the reconciliatory meeting, the Accountant-General of the Federation who is the chairman of the Implementation Committee on the Enforcement of Executive Order 10 and the representative of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum presented different documents.
“It was noticed that the NGF amended some aspects of the agreement they reached with the Chief of Staff on the previous day.”

He said that it was in the process of trying to reconcile the differences by the government team that the representatives of the government delayed the meeting with JUSUN officials.
According to him, this development delayed the commencement of the reconciliatory meeting with the leadership of the judiciary and parliamentary workers and their subsequent walkout.

The source said the president had taken up the matter with a view to resolving it.
On the issue of the implementation of the Executive Order 10, the source said under the agreement, the governors were expected to comply with the constitutional provision by transferring allocations due to the two other arms of government in their states to the accounts of their judiciaries and legislatures without any deductions.

He said the agreement also provided that when any state failed to comply with the agreement on financial autonomy, the Accountant-General of the Federation would invoke the executive order to start the direct transfer of allocations from the Federation Account to the two arms without recourse to the governors.

The source, however, added that the governors later adjusted their position on the matter by insisting that they would make deductions from the judiciary allocations to pay for loans.
He said: “Governors have not agreed on the full transmission of allocations to the state judiciaries and legislatures.

“Some of the governors are still claiming that they are owing loans of various cadre and that these loans should be deducted before transmission of funds to the accounts of the judiciary and legislative arms of government.

“In addition, the governors said there are expenditures on capital projects such as the buildings housing the state Houses of Assembly, the courts and judges quarters, which are being built and managed by the state Ministries of Works and Housing. The state governors said that until such collective budgetary expenditures are deducted, they will not transfer the funds.”

NGF Chairman and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, had told journalists after the governors’ meeting with Gambari that he and his colleagues were in principle not opposed to financial autonomy for both the judiciaries and legislatures in the 36 states of the federation.

He had said: “But 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, the representatives of the judiciary, the representatives of the Conference of Speakers and House of Representatives and we are on all fours. An agreement has been reached.”
He said the implementation of financial autonomy had been finally resolved at the meeting and would begin latest by the end of May once the final copy of the implementation document is ready.