By OKUNADE ADEKUNLE
The Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria, on Thursday, paid a courtesy visit to President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Presidential Villa, in Abuja. The first in recent time by them.
As it is obvious that such a courtesy call is always used to either introduce a government policy or to cement an existing idea between the two parties involved in such meeting.
However, the State Speakers used the opportunity avail them at the meeting to make clearly some demands from President Buhari.
According to the Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies and also the Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt ( Hon) Mudashiru Obasa, the demands would help to develop public governance in the country.
Obasa noted that they form part of what sums up as ‘issues of national importance’.
To the speakers, Buhari’s courage is partly what resulted in the passage of and assent to the fourth alteration to the 1999 constitution (as amended) which, among others, grants financial autonomy to both state legislatures and the judiciary.
Three demands of the speakers as reeled out by Obasa:
An executive order on financial autonomy to state legislatures, judiciary
Many Houses of Assembly in Nigeria and state judiciary have continued to suffer the challenge of relying on the executive arm for funding even when they are acclaimed independent arms of government. This may have hampered their successes in most cases. Obasa urged the Buhari to rely on the constitutionally guaranteed power for an executive order for effective implementation of the act which the president recently signed granting financial autonomy to the state legislatures and judiciary.
To this end, the speakers demanded that the executive order should be such that would mandate the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct allocations for the state legislatures and judiciary from source for any state that errs in releasing the budget of state legislatures and judiciary to them.
Devolution of powers from the federal government to states
The speakers, through Obasa, said the federal government needs to shed some of its weight by devolving power to the states by reducing some items in the ‘exclusive list’ to the concurrent list. According to the speakers, items like railway, police and such may be expanded to states.
“Similarly, while we appreciate many landmark policies introduced by this administration in the health sector, we want to appeal to Your Excellency to charge the relevant ministries and agencies with a view to ensuring better access to essential health facilities and medicare by the masses at the grassroots,” the speakers said.
Periodic engagement with Buhari
The speakers want President Muhammadu Buhari to create a time from his busy schedule to relate with them, understand their challenges and progress and share ideas with them.