By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari has assented to the Constitution Fourth Alteration Bill, which grants financial autonomy to the State Houses of Assembly and the Judiciary.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Sen. Ita Enang, confirmed this development to State House Correspondents in Abuja on Friday.
Enang explained that with the signing into law the Constitution Alteration Bill the State Houses of Assembly would now operate like the National Assembly where Federal Ministry of Finance automatically transferred budgetary allocation direct to the account of the NASS.
He said that the Judiciary in the states would also enjoy similar financial independence as their budgetary allocations would no longer go through the budgeting process of the executive arms at the state level, but would be transferred directly to the account of the judiciary.
“Therefore, upon this signature the amount standing to the credit of the judiciary are now to be paid directly to the judiciary of that state, no more through the governor and no more from the governors.
“And then amounts standing to the credits of the Houses of Assembly of the respective states are now to be paid directly to the Houses of Assembly of that state for the benefit of the legislature and the management of the State Houses of Assembly.
“This grants full autonomy now to the judiciary at the state level and the Houses of Assembly at the state level,’’ he explained.
He said: “Well, this allows the State Houses of Assembly to operate like the National Assembly does because the National Assembly does not get its money from the executive.
“It provides money in the statutory transfers which the Ministry of Finance will automatically transfer to the account of the National Assembly.
“Just like that of the (Federal) Judiciary, you see the judiciary sometime get N150 to N170 billion sometime a little bit about a N100 billion.
“It does not go through the executive and it does go through the budgeting process of the executive. It is transferred directly to the account of the judiciary, which is the head of courts.
“When the Houses of Assembly are doing their budgets, the amounts standing to the credit of the judiciary will now be among the statutory transfers which will be statutorily transferred to the heads of the courts.
“And then that of the State Houses of Assembly will stand transferred to the House of Assembly of the state.’’
According to Enang, the president also signed into law the Constitution Amendment No. 21, which relates to determination of pre-election matters.
He said the new bill had reduced the days and time of determining pre-election matters to ensure that pre-election matters in courts do not get into the time of election and do not pend thereafter.
“The relevant section of the constitution has also been amended by this Act therefore amending the constitution,’’ he added.
Besides, Enang said that Buhari signed into law the Act or Bill No. 16.
He said: “The intent of the Bill No. 16 is to ensure that where a Vice-President succeeds a President or a Deputy Governor succeeds a Governor he can no more contest for that office more than once more.
“The fact is that having taken the oath as president once and you can only contest for the office once again and no more. That is the intent of this amendment.’’
He said the president also signed the Bill No. 9 into law.
According to him, the Bill No.9 gives the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) sufficient time to conduct bye-elections.
He said with the president’s signature on the bill the days for the conduct of bye-elections had been increased from seven to 21 days.
“These four Bills added to the `Not Too Young To Run’ Act, have now been assented to by Mr President and they have now become laws.
“And then the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended is hereby further amended by the assents of Mr President to these bills today,’’ he said.