The insistence of state governors to rely on the 45-day window provided in their agreement with the judicial and parliamentary workers for the implementation of its terms may prolong the ongoing strike by the workers, THISDAY has learnt.
This is coming as the federal government has directed members of the striking Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria(JUSUN) and the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria(PASAN) to urgently reopen all the courts and the state Houses of Assembly so that the May 20, 2021 Memorandum of Action (MoA), signed by all parties on June 4, can take effect.
However, the National Executive Committees (NECs) of the two unions will hold emergency meetings today to decide on the next line of action.
The federal government had three weeks ago brokered an agreement between the governors and the workers to end their 10-week-old strike.
Under the agreement, the governors were given 45-day window, with effect from the date of the agreement, to implement its terms.
However, while the representatives of the workers promptly signed the agreement under the supervision of the Minister of Employment, Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, the representatives of the governors only endorsed the document last Friday.
But one of the conditions given by the workers to call off the strike was that while the agreement is being implemented, the governors should first release their May statutory allocations directly to them immediately after the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC), held last month.
THISDAY, however, gathered that after signing the agreements, the governors have not released the allocations due to the judiciary and the legislative arms of government.
A source told THISDAY that the delay in releasing the allocations to the two arms of government in line with their financial autonomy status provided by the constitution was due to the inability of the states to immediately set up a State Allocation Accounts Committee (SAAC) and the State Houses of Assembly Services Commission in their respective states.
The setting up of SAAC and State Houses of Assembly Services Commission was also part of the agreement reached between the striking workers and the governors.
The source said the inability to set up these bodies immediately was the major reason stalling the release of funds to both arms of government.
While the workers have demanded the immediate release of the allocations for them to call off the strike, the source stated that the governors are utilising the 45-day window provided in the agreement to implement the terms, including the release of the funds.
He added that some states have not set up SAAC and the State Assembly Services Commission for the various commissioners of finance and the representatives of the Conference of Speakers of State Assembly.
He said: “The governors are desirous of releasing the funds to the states’ judiciaries and the legislatures, but these organs have to be set up first to become the avenue to moderate the disbursements of the funds like it is done with the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC).
“The governors were given a 45-day deadline to set up these organs to enable implementation. Therefore, it is after the expiration of this 45 days that one can say that the governors don’t want to honour the agreement with the judicial and the legislative workers.
“For now, all processes are in motion and the necessary organs would be set up to ensure proper implementation as per the agreement.”
He added: “Every state will have to set up the SAAC and the State Assembly Services Commission. It is here the details of what every state has to pay to the legislature and the judiciary is to be worked out based on the agreed percentage.
“The mode of payment is based on a percentage of the revenue generated by each state and not based on the total budget of the state.
“Who will receive necessary funds without the SAAC? So, let the proper thing be done. The governors are within the terms of the agreement reached.”
FG Directs Workers to Resume Work or Face Sanctions
Meanwhile, the federal government has directed members of the striking JUSUN and the PASAN to reopen all the courts and the state Houses of Assembly so that the May 20, 2021 Memorandum of Action, signed by all parties on June 4, can take effect.
The government said it might invoke sections of the Trade Disputes Acts if the strike continued.
In a statement Tuesday in Abuja, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, decried the situation where the courts and the state Houses of Assembly are still shut for no cogent reasons.
He said going by the provisions of the May 20 Memorandum of Action, states had 45 days implementation window.
The statement, signed by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, Mr. Charles Akpan, said: “The federal government has sadly noted that the MOA between all the stakeholders involved in the JUSUN/ PASAN strike, mainly JUSUN/PASAN, Governors’ Forum and the Presidential Implementation Committee is yet to take effect because of non-compliance by parties.
“We note that the strike has not been called off as of noon, today, June 8, 2021, leading to courts and various state Houses of Assembly still remaining under lock and key contrary to the promise made by the two unions at a further dialogue, which was attended by the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).
“Unfortunately, all federal courts have remained closed notwithstanding the fact that the federal level of government operates a financial autonomy for the judiciary through the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the National Assembly through the statutory transfer lines.”
Ngige, however, said that he had advised all governors that have consulted with their heads of judiciaries and legislatures to go ahead and credit the accounts of judiciaries and legislatures before fine-tuning the laws.
The statement added that many governors are desirous that the state Houses of Assembly be opened so that they can enact the laws meant to give effect to the autonomy as enshrined in the MOA.
“We are worried and therefore wish to appeal for the last time to all parties involved in the signed agreement to abide by its spirit and letters, by firstly re-opening all the courts and the state Houses of Assembly so that all other ingredients in the MOA can be given full compliance by all parties concerned.
“This much was agreed to between JUSUN/ PASSAN and the governors’ forum at the last meeting on Friday, June 4, 2021,” he said.
The minister added that with the courts closed , the police and other security agencies cannot prosecute criminals.
The statement said that the ministry would not be happy to be pushed into invoking sections of the Trade Disputes Acts capable of eroding all the gains made so far in the negotiations since May 6, 2021.
THISDAY gathered that the NECs of both unions will meet separately today in Abuja to reconsider issues that led to the over two-month- old industrial action.
It was learnt that the NEC meetings would be held to get the views of members of the two unions on whether or not to suspend the strike.
Deputy President of JUSUN, Mr. Emmanuel Abisoye, told THISDAY yesterday that the NEC meeting would review the progress made so far in the agitation for financial autonomy for state judiciaries and legislatures.
Reacting to the threat by Ngige, Abisoye said the union had not done any wrong to warrant any threat from the government.
According to him, it is the state governors who have failed to implement the provisions of the Memorandum of Action that such threat should be directed at.