When President Muhammadu Buhari signed Executive Order 10 two years ago, it was with the best of intentions.
There is no precise judicial definition of what an executive order is but think of it as a wuru wuru to the answer kind of legislation. It allows a president to issue a directive without going through the painful process of begging the National Assembly for approval.
“Serve me 10 cups of executive orders, please.”
What is Executive Order 10?
Money makes the world go round, and this is especially true for Nigerian politics.
The key goal of Buhari’s Executive Order 10 was to enforce the financial independence of the state legislature and judiciary whose purse strings are controlled by their governors.
The process currently works in such a way that governors receive allocations for these arms from the Federation Account, but have the final say on what they can let them have.
It’s essentially a parent-child relationship that allows the governors maintain some undue influence on important arms of government that are supposed to be independent and even check them.
If you relied on your parents for weekly allowance, how likely are you to obey their unfair 5 pm curfew order? And would they even take you seriously when you tell them 9 am is too early to be drinking alcohol?
“Ko ma lo ni titi”
This is how state executives currently relate with the legislature and judiciary, but remember that they are supposed to be siblings with equal amount of independence.
the dragon Buhari
Section 121(3) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) stipulates that the amount credited to the judiciary should be paid directly to the heads of courts.
But the governors said, “What is a constitution?” and continue, to this day, to control the tap and do as they wish.
“Economy is hard. Just manage this for now.”
Buhari used Executive Order 10 to empower the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct directly from the Federation Account the allocations made to any state that fails to release funds meant for its legislature and judiciary.
Governors are sugar daddies to their state legislative and judicial arms, but Buhari’s order established the Federal Government as the alpha sugar daddy.
Pushing his luck further, Buhari said in Executive Order 10 that State Governments must set up committees to determine a workable budget for each arm of the government.
This would be based on the needs communicated by the accounting officers of those arms.
State Judiciary Budget Committees were also to be created to prepare, administer and implement the budgets that meet the needs of the judicial arms.
Predictably, governors were pissed at Buhari’s meddling into their affairs and told him to sit down in one place.
They said his order was unnecessary and unconstitutional and hinted he doesn’t understand the interpretation of Section 121(3) of the constitution he was using to justify Executive Order 10.
The order was supposed to take effect on May 20, 2020, but a back-and-forth between the governors and the Buhari administration delayed that until a case was filed at the Supreme Court.
A judgement delivered on February 11, 2022 agreed with the governors and established that Buhari was overstepping the limit of his constitutional powers.
Six of the seven-member panel of judges said the Federal Government has no right to tell State Governments how to run their households if there’s no clear constitutional backing.
Justice Uwani Abba-Aji, the only judge who disagreed with the verdict, rebuked the governors for the ‘hanky-panky’ methods they have employed to deny financial independence to their judicial arms.
He noted that Buhari’s Executive Order 10 would have corrected the constitutional wrong being done by the governors.
We imagine Justice Abba-Aji gave his minority verdict like this:
Executive orders are not clearly defined in the 1999 constitution, but the Buhari administration has signed 10 of them, after the three presidents before him since 1999 signed a combined total of zero.
Even though they allow presidents to skirt legislative review, they still need to not clash with the constitution.
It is a deliberate mechanism to make sure democratic leaders do not become dictators.
State judiciary and legislature are indeed living in the bondage of their all-powerful
sugar daddies governors, but it appears Executive Order 10 won’t be their way out.