Some Abuja- based litigants, lawyers , court staff and vendors have have expressed mixed reactions over the suspension of the 64-day-old strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the strike, the longest industrial action in the Nigerian judiciary was suspended on Wednesday, following a meeting between officials of the union and the National Judicial Council (NJC) led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad.
NAN reports that both parties agreed that the strike should be called off in the interest of the nation and to give room for the implementation of agreements JUSUN reached with the Federal Government.
NAN reports that courts are to re-open on June 14.
In an interview with NAN on Thursday in Abuja, Mrs Doorshima Aper, a litigant with a pending suit over an alleged unlawful termination before the National Industrial Court, could not hold back her excitement over the suspension of the strike.
” With the suspension of the strike, my lawyer can file some processes that will enable my matter to proceed.
“The strike literally halted the judicial activities which ultimately paralysed justice administration in the country for nine weeks”, Aper said.
Also reacting, Mr Audu Sani, whose son was incarcerated during the strike, but currently out on administrative bail, was optimistic that with the suspension of the strike, his son can have his day before the court.
” The news of the suspension of JUSUN strike yesterday made me happy like I had won a lottery. My son can be formally charged before the court where I believe strongly that his lawyers can prove his case beyond reasonable doubt and he will get justice”.
Another respondent, a staff in one of the Magistrates’ Court, who wanted to be anonymous said ” different emotions are going through my mind right now over this development of suspension of the strike.
“Although the strike was for a just cause, after about one month into the strike, I felt we lost the grip as some courts started having virtual court proceedings with the help of JUSUN staff.
” Also suspending the strike without our demands not been granted looks like a trap to me and I hope we will not regret this decision.
” On a lighter note, am happy to be going back to work on Monday as I have missed not going to work and the little perks and privileges that comes with the job”. Sani added.
Mrs Jane Bitrus, a vendor, who sells legal books, lawyers wigs and gowns at the FCT High Court, said she could not be happier over the suspension of the strike.
According to her, the strike had practically crippled her financially as she could not meet her financial obligations due to the strike as the court was shut down.
Mr Wisdom Chukwu, a lawyer said suspension of the strike was the best thing that could happen to the judicial.
Chukwu was of the opinion that the strike grinded the delivery of justice administration in the country and hoped that all concerned parties will honour their part of the bargain in order to avoid similar occurrence in the future.A legal practitioner, Dare Owolabi, described the JUSUN strike as a wasted effort.“No take home apart from making an obvious statement to the world that, in practice, there is no constitutional independence for the judiciary in Nigeria.” Section 121 of the constitution is clear as per the financial independence of the judiciary.
The same constitution is being observed in breach by those who sworn to uphold its tenets.” In my opinion, our judges must come out boldly to join JUSUN in the fight against executive terrorism by giving courageous judgements that will alter the existing structure to what is constitutionally provided.” Independence of judiciary has its foundation in financial autonomy. It is a right not privilege, ” Owolabi said.He added that JUSUN should have thought through its actions before embarking on the strike in the first place by asking what happens if the executive remains adamant as it turned out to be.“A concrete arrangement for solidarity support should have been made with the stakeholders in the country namely:Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC ) and other non-governmental organisations.”
The Judges or Justices at the highest level of the judiciary should have been engaged for concurrence and support. This would have sent shivers down the spine of the executive and the desirable would have been achievable.“The call off was long due, because no hope seemed to be in sight and litigants unjustly suffer. Nigeria’s soul cries for help, ” he said.Also reacting, another lawyer, Tosin Ojaomo said JUSUN strike was not a well thought out plan because there was no strategy of action.” For example JUSUN , NEC resolution was that the strike will not be called off until full autonomy is granted to the judiciary in Nigeria most especially at the state level, but here is JUSUN calling off the strike two months after locking out court rooms and the said funds have not been released directly to the state judiciary.”
Next time a warning strike would have been carried out and we must not forget that out of the grievance of JUSUN is that there is a pending court order affirming financial autonomy to the judiciary in Nigeria.“The question is cant JUSUN ensure the execution of the order? I think we must be careful in putting a sensitive arm of government like the judiciary in this situation next time because the court is the last hope of the common man, ” Ojaomo said.
NAN reports that the union JUSUN had begun a nationwide strike on Tuesday, April 6, when the union directed all its members across the federation to shut down all courts after the expiration of the 21-day ultimatum earlier given over the failure of the government to implement the law.
NAN reports that a verdict of the Federal High Court in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, had in January 2014 held that financial autonomy for the judiciary is a constitutional provision that must be complied with by the executive branch of government.
NAN reports that on May 23, President Buhari signed into law the Executive Order to grant financial autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary across the 36 states of the country.
The order also mandates the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct from source amount due to state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocation to each state for states that refuse to grant such autonomy.
The Attorney General of the Federation Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said Executive Order No. 10 of 2020 made it mandatory that all states of the federation should include the allocations of both the legislature and the judiciary in the first-line charge of their budgets.
According to the AGF: “A Presidential Implementation Committee was constituted to fashion out strategies and modalities for the implementation of financial autonomy for the State Legislature and State Judiciary in compliance with section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended).”
NAN reports that the Nigeria Governors Forum said it will start implementing financial autonomy for the judiciary latest by May ending, a pledge that indicated that an end to the ongoing strike that has crippled the nation’s judiciary may be in sight.
The governors also called on striking members of the JUSUN to call off their two weeks old strike then.
The Chairman of the NGF, Gov. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, gave this assurance in an interview with journalists after meeting with “stakeholders” from the state judiciary and legislature at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Fayemi said the modalities for the implementation were worked out at the meeting held at the Presidential Villa.
According to him, the meeting, chaired by the Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Ibrahim Gambari, was attended by the Solicitor-General of the Federation, representatives of the judiciary, Conference of Speakers and House of Representatives.
The first line charge status, which is being respected by the Federal Government in respect of the federal judiciary, entitles the state judiciaries to get funds due to them directly from the Federation Account.(NAN)