The Nigerian Bar Association has faulted the proposed strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria scheduled to start on Monday (today), describing it as untimely because of its ‘potentially devastating consequences.’
The organisation expressed worry that despite the provisions of the 1999 constitution which confer autonomy on the Judiciary, the executive arm of the government had customarily refused to comply with the provisions targeted at safeguarding the independence of the judiciary.
The President of the NBA, Olumide Akpata, said these in a statement on Monday titled, ‘Proposed strike action by JUSUN over financial autonomy for Judiciary.’
He said, “As commendable and laudable as the proposed strike action may be, the NBA is concerned about its timing and the potentially devastating consequences it would pose for justice administration in the country, particularly coming on the heels of prolonged lull in judicial activities owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and the enforced lockdowns.
“Across the country, the courts are trying to play catch-up for lost time, and it would be catastrophic for the administration of justice for the Courts to be shut again. This is not to mention the adverse economic consequences for families and lawyers alike, who earn a living in one way or the other, by providing various support services to the Court system.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the NBA, as a leading stakeholder in the justice sector, and in keeping with its motto of promoting the rule of law is in support of the demands of JUSUN, and has been a constant voice of advocacy towards enthroning judicial autonomy. But the timing of an action is as good as the action itself.
“Against the backdrop of the above, the NBA has reached out to, and is discussing with JUSUN on the prospects of reconsidering the strike action at this time, and will provide updates as discussions progress.”
The NBA said it was aware of the judgment of the Federal High Court of January 13 2014 which confirmed the autonomy of the Judiciary in line with the spirit and letters of the constitution.
Meanwhile, the Edo State chapter of JUSUN on Monday threw its weight behind the planned strike by the national body, which begins today.
The Chairman of the state chapter of JUSUN, Comrade Uyi Ogieriakhi, said it was in support of the national body because the union was fighting a just cause.
He said, “We are in support of the strike. By 7am on Tuesday (today). It is a national directive and you don’t expect us to go against the national body that is fighting a just cause.
“We went to strike in 2015 because our workers were demanding judicial autonomy and payment of seven months’ salary arrears which the state government under Comrade Adams Oshiomhole insisted it would not honour then.”
The House of Representatives Committee on Judiciary has, however, urged members of JUSUN not to embark on strike, saying it would intervene in the crisis between the government and the workers.
The Chairman of the committee, Onofiok Luke, made the plea in a statement on Monday.
The statement partly reads, “The attention of the Federal Judiciary Committee, House of Representatives, Nigeria, has been drawn to the planned nationwide strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria on the failure of governments to implement the financial autonomy of the Judiciary.
“While we understand and share the concerns of the Union on financial autonomy, we, however, appeal to them to momentarily shelve the planned strike and give the committee time to engage governments towards resolving the issue.
“It is of note that the House of Representatives, under Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, takes the concerns involving the judiciary seriously and the House, through its committee has constantly canvassed the financial autonomy, better welfare and conditions of service for both judicial officers and judiciary staff. This is because the committee understands that financial independence is synonymous with an independent judiciary that can execute justice and adjudicate over the interests of citizens and residents without fear or favour,” Luke said.