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    Financial autonomy: Workers shut state assemblies

    The Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) on Tuesday began an indefinite strike over the non-implementation of legislative financial autonomy. As a result, activities in state assemblies across the country were paralysed on Tuesday.

    Assemblies were shut in Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Plateau, Niger, Bauchi, Imo, Jigawa, Rivers, Osun, Ekiti, Yobe, Ondo and Cross Rivers. The assemblies were also shut in Ebonyi, Bayelsa, Benue, Kano, Gombe, Kaduna and others.

    In many states, workers carried placards with different inscriptions and marched to the Legislature in the early hours.

    Some of the inscriptions were: “Grant assembly autonomy’’, “deepen democracy’’, “no autonomy for state assemblies, no legislation in Nigeria’’, “AGF implement Order 10’’, and “Constitution is superior’’, ‘No arm of government should enslave the other’, ‘no subjugation of legislative control’, ‘Governors forum free the legislature’, among others.

    The workers said the autonomy is provided for in Nigeria Constitution, Section 121(3) and the Presidential Order 10, 2020, directed its implementation.

    The Chairperson, PASAN, Rivers State chapter, Comfort Osuene, said the protest signalled the beginning of indefinite strike action.

    “We know that he that pays the piper dictates the tune. So if the legislature keeps going cap in hand for approval, for money, then the executive will continue to control the legislature,” she said.

    A statement by the association’s chairman in Lagos, Comrade Taofiq Adele, reads: “The bedrock of parliamentary autonomy hinges on financial independence. Autonomy in this context is simply defined as non-dependence and non-subordination of parliaments in relation to the executive.

    “This non-dependence and non-subordination are in terms of unfettered control over financial and other related resources. According to best practices, the parliaments should have equitable access to resources. As such, parliaments by constitutional arrangements should have enough financial muscle to carry out their legislative mandate, including exercising power over the budget.

    “This is consistent with the principles that ‘parliaments should have control of and authority to determine and secure their budgetary requirements unconstrained by the executive, save for budgetary constraints dictated by national circumstances.”

    Adele added that parliaments should assert their role as a separate arm of government, meaning they should be independent of the executive in their organisation, control of timetable and the ability to recall themselves outside normal session if circumstances so required.

    Oyo PASAN Chairman Yemi Alade accused Nigeria’s Governors Forum (NGF) of being behind the non-implementation of the financial autonomy of the lawmakers.

    Alade said: “We are fighting for the non-implementation of our financial autonomy. It is a provisional constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Having observed that with the current emasculation of the legislative arm of government, there can be no true democracy.

    “The bill has been passed since 2018, then in May 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari also capped it up with a Presidential Order 10, but, up till now, they are yet to implement it.

    “And this is a fundamental provision of the constitution which has been relegated to the background.

    “As a staff of the House of Assembly, if there is no true democracy, no independent, it will affect the democracy of the country. It is affecting the entire country, not only the staff of the House of Assembly because the principle of separation of power stipulates that each arm of government must act separately and if there is no financial autonomy, all other arms of government would be in slavery to the executive arm.”

    Oyo State House of Assembly Speaker Adebo Ogundoyin said all the lawmakers had been advised to stay away from the complex.

    Ogun State PASAN chief Obanla said his members joined the nationwide strike in compliance with the directive of the national body.

    Obanla said they had no option other than ground activities at the Ogun Assembly indefinitely.

    He said: “The strike is indefinite, the business among the three arms of government will be affected. Today’s plenary has already been affected and the stakeholders’ forum scheduled for tomorrow will likely to be affected too,” he said.

    Ogun State House of Assembly Speaker Olakunle Oluomo appealed to the striking members of PASAN to allow for further engagements between the Conference of Speakers of State legislatures and the Governors’ forum on the modalities for the seamless implementation of financial autonomy for state legislatures.

    Oluomo said meetings were held with the representatives of the Governors’ Forum, including Governors Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Simon Lalong (Plateau) and Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi State) at the instance of the Conference of Speakers leadership.

    Oluomo said the process would achieve the desired result in the next two weeks, hoping that it would also lead to smooth implementation.

    “The governors agreed with us that financial autonomy is a constitutional matter and they believe it must be so, but the area of disagreement is the method of implementing it, hence, we have submitted our proposal to them on how it could be done. They promise to take it back to their brother-governors and get back to us within two weeks, I believe that within two weeks something tangible would be done,” Oluomo said.

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