Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) has taken on the Executive branch of the Nigerian government, accusing it of using its overbearing powers and influence, to allegedly squash relevance out of the Legislature and the Judiciary.
PLAC is concerned with promoting citizens’ engagement with government institutions and advocating for legal and policy reforms and promoting transparency and accountability in policy and decision-making processes.
It says the country’s democracy rests on the principle of separation of powers, with the three arms of government forming the tripod of democratic survival and expansion.
‘’Starved of funds, these two arms of government that play critical roles of checks and balance have been weakened to the point that their effectiveness has become starkly deficient and inadequate’’, the group said.
The group was reacting against the backdrop of strike by staff of the judiciary across the country’s 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) which has caused a shutdown of Nigerian courts with huge implications for the justice system in the country.
PLAC posted on its website, ‘’it is also worrying that there is even a debate about the implementation of this Constitutional provision, a concern that underscores the lack of respect for the rule of law in Nigeria.
‘’The Constitution being the highest known law in the country should not be in debate in any way, as to whether its provisions be respected or not.’’
At the core of PLAC’s programming is a deep commitment to increase legislative advocacy, promote transparency and good governance, support and promote electoral reforms, enhance citizen’s access to public policies and advance anti-corruption campaigns.
Members of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) called a strike to demand the implementation of Section 121(3) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, which provides for financial autonomy for state judiciaries and legislatures.
The section states as follows: “Any amount standing to the credit of the (a) House of Assembly of the State; and (b) Judiciary; in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State shall be paid directly to the said bodies respectively; in the case of judiciary, such amount shall be paid directly to the heads of the courts concerned.”
According to PLAC, ‘’the section arose from the alteration to the Constitution effected by the 8th National Assembly in 2017. Since the alteration, several State governments in the country have failed to implement this Constitutional requirement.
‘’This compelled President Muhammadu Buhari to issue an Executive Order, No.10 directing the implementation of the Constitution alteration. Although the Order was considered superfluous to the Constitution alteration, it nevertheless emphasized the seriousness of the matter.
‘’A national convening by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, Presidential Adviser on Legislative Matters, Ita Enang and PLAC, which was supported by the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), previously the Department for International Development (DFID) in 2018, outlined implementation direction and strategies for the provision.
‘’There is worry that the weakening of Nigeria’s institutions of democracy represents a major threat to their survival.’’