Over half of Nigeria’s governors, a total of 31, are yet to concede financial autonomy to the legislative arm of government in their respective states. This issue has ignited widespread concern over the adherence to democratic principles and institutional independence.
Presently, only five states – Lagos, Delta, Plateau, Oyo, and Nasarawa – have managed to establish a semblance of full financial independence for their Houses of Assembly. Another 12 states operate with partial autonomy. These include Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Enugu, Kogi, Kwara, Bauchi, Ogun, Osun, and Rivers.
Disturbingly, eight states, namely Ondo, Katsina, Gombe, Taraba, Yobe, Ekiti, Abia, and Imo, still lack any form of financial autonomy. Additionally, Bayelsa, Anambra, Ebonyi, Niger, Bauchi, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kano, Jigawa, and Kaduna states are yet to fully implement this critical constitutional provision.
The controversy surrounding financial autonomy reached a tipping point last week when members of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) in approximately 20 states embarked on a nationwide industrial action following the expiration of the ultimatum for the implementation of financial autonomy by state assemblies nationwide.
Ekiti State PASAN Chairman, Gbenga Oluwajuyigbe, underscored that financial autonomy is a vital imperative for both the national and state assemblies. While the National Assembly has enjoyed full autonomy for a decade due to their funds being allocated as a first-line charge, the state legislatures have faced a different reality.
“The three levels of compliance with autonomy are partial implementation, full implementation, and non-compliance. Full financial autonomy is achieved when the allocations of the legislature are placed in first-line charge, fully implementing the spirit and letter of Section 121. Partial implementation, on the other hand, is when the salaries of the legislature are still disbursed by the executive,” Oluwajuyigbe explained.
The national president of PASAN, Usman Mohammed, affirmed that Lagos and Plateau have already achieved autonomy while noting that Jigawa is progressively onboarding.
“The Constitution didn’t say you should do it partially; it has granted autonomy to the state legislature under Section 121. It says the entire fund meant for the state legislature and the judiciary should be transferred to their accounts. It didn’t say you transfer only the overhead, personnel costs, or capital; it says all the funds,” Mohammed emphasised.
The struggle for financial autonomy for state houses of assembly commenced in 2010 and has encountered various obstacles, largely attributed to resistance from the governors of the 36 states. The momentum gained renewed vigour when former President Muhammadu Buhari signed Executive Order No. 10 of 2020, reinforcing the alterations to the Constitution in the 4th Alteration Act of 2017.