Governors of Nigeria’s 36 states are to meet on May 19 to address matters including COVID-19 and the financial autonomy of state judiciaries and the legislatures.

Members of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) have shut down courts across the country for seven weeks in an industrial action embarked upon on April 6 to press home their demand for the judiciary’s financial autonomy.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) led by Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State disclosed in a statement in Abuja on Monday that the governors would hold their 30th teleconference meeting to discuss “matters arising” by 2p.m. on May 19.

The statement issued by the Head, Media and Public Affairs of the NGF secretariat, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, said the meeting would discuss issues such as ongoing conversation over the contentious Executive Order 10 and the third wave of COVID-19.

President Muhammadu Buhari had in May 2020 issued the Executive Order 10 for the enforcement of section 121(3) of the Constitution which places both state judiciaries and legislatures on first line charge.

Mr Bello-Barkindo stated that the NGF’s Director-General, Asishana Okauru, would give feedback on the series of Executive Order 10 meetings with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.

This, according to him, is about the ongoing industrial action by JUSUN and the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PSAN).

COVID-19, other matters

He further said a committee headed by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State would brief the forum on health matters arising from the coming of the third wave of COVID-19.

The Federal Government, through the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, recently re-introduced some measures to curb the spread of the virus amid reports of emergence of new strains in Nigeria and possible relapse to a third wave of the outbreak.

Mr Bello-Barkindo said the NGF’s planned meeting would be the seventh this year and would also discuss “an update of the States, Fiscal Transparency, Accountability, (SFTAS) report”, among other things.

“The meeting will cover lessons for states and actions for governors on sustainability as well as the adoption of SaaS E-procurement,” he stated.

The statement also read, “Furthermore, there will be a presentation from the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Sabo Nanono about the 2nd Phase of Farmers’ Enumeration.

“There will also be another presentation by the Director-General, Bureau for Public Enterprises, Mr Alexander Okoh on unlocking liquidity through sale/optimisation of state-owned redundant/sub-optimal assets.”

Judiciary crisis

PREMIUM TIMES reported that JUSUN, whose members have been on strike for 43 days as of Tuesday, had rejected the 36 state governors’ proposed template for the implementation of the judiciary’s financial autonomy being demanded by the workers.

The governors, in the said proposal, seek the creation of a State Account Allocation Committee (SAAC) to oversee the distribution of funds to the three arms of government at the state level.

But in a communique issued after a May 8 meeting of JUSUN’s National Working Committee (NWC), the union insisted on its demand that funds meant for the state judiciaries must be deducted directly from the federation account and paid to the heads of courts through the National Judicial Council (NJC).

It maintained that the provisions of the constitution “cannot be negotiated, doctored, manipulated and therefore must be obeyed”.

As a condition to end its ongoing strike, the union insisted that all the state judiciaries’ funds for October 2020 till May 2021 must be deducted directly from source, the federation account, and paid to the heads of courts through the NJC as prescribed by the constitution.

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