By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Efforts to resolve the lingering industrial action by judicial and legislative workers over their agitations for financial autonomy for state judiciaries and legislatures were stalled yesterday following the inability of the federal government and state governors to meet to harmonise their positions.
However, a source confided in Thisday that the meeting of federal government officials and representatives of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) will reconvene today to harmonise positions on the implementation of financial autonomy for states’ legislatures and judiciaries.
Thisday gathered that the disagreement stalled yesterday’s bid to resolve the judicial and parliamentary workers’ strike as the government team and the striking workers could not meet as scheduled because of the differing positions of the federal government and the governors.
While the federal government’s position is that the governors should transfer the statutory allocations of the other two arms of government to them directly, the state chief executives insisted on making some deductions before remitting the money.
Thisday gathered that the two parties will today decide on the appropriate deductions to be made from the statutory allocations of the states’ judiciaries and legislatures before remittance to them.
The development also followed the rejection of the N100 million irreducible monthly minimum offered each state’s legislature by the governors in lieu of their statutory allocations.
The governors had offered the legislative arm N100 million but the speakers of the states’ assemblies rejected the offer, insisting on N250 million.
The governors had also offered in the alternative, to pay the two tiers of government their allocations from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC), but on the condition that legacy debts and money for capital projects would first be deducted before remitting the net balance to the other two arms of government.
But the states’ legislatures and judiciaries have insisted on being paid their gross allocations from FAAC.
But a source close to the presidency told Thisday yesterday that the representatives of the governors and the federal government officials would meet today to harmonise their positions on the option of deductions before presenting their common position to the striking workers.
He said the meeting would determine what constituted capital projects that should be deducted and what constituted revenue inflow.
When asked whether the federal government and the states have agreed on how to address the demands of the judiciary and parliamentary workers, the source said: “It’s work in progress. We are still meeting. For the government side, we will be meeting tomorrow (Tuesday). We all need to be on one page; that is the government side before we put anything on paper as Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). We are to look at what constitutes capital projects. They will be defined. The second issue is to look at what constitutes the revenue inflow”.
The source also confirmed that there were areas that had been agreed on like the setting up of the Funds Committee and its composition.
The governors had agreed that the National Judicial Council (NJC) would handle funds for states’ judicial councils.
However, they insisted that they would deduct loans and legacy debts from their allocations.
In a bid to resolve the issues and end the ongoing industrial dispute, the federal government had scheduled to hold talks yesterday with the striking workers.
But the talks could not hold due to the inability of the government side to come up with one position.
However, the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria ( PASAN) had said its members would continue the strike until full financial autonomy of the state legislatures was implemented.
The agitation by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and PASAN for the implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary and legislative arms of government in states, as stipulated by the 1999 Constitution as altered, has led to the shutdown of courts nationwide for the third week running.