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We Cannot Suspend Strike Now, JUSUN Tells CJN

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The national officials of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) had told the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad that it would be very difficult for it to call off its ongoing strike now.

JUSUN had visited the CJN in his office on Wednesday ostensibly to give him a feedback on his recent demand on the union to call off the ongoing strike.

The CJN had, at an earlier meeting with JUSUN leaders on April 6, asked the union to call off the strike in view of its adverse effect on the justice system in the country. According to a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant on Media to the CJN, Ahurakah Isah, the JUSUN officials, led by its Deputy National President, Emmanuel Abioye and Jimoh Musa Alonge (Treasurer), explained why the union found it difficult to heed the CJN’s demand to call off the strike.

Abiyoye told the CJN that the state governors must begin to demonstrate some level of seriousness by putting in place some measures precedent to the implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary in their respective states.

‘’Though there’s financial autonomy for the judiciary already in some states while some are assuring that they would comply, others have to take steps in readiness for compliance,’’ Abioye said. According to Abioye, the union expects each state to start implementing its selfaccounting law to deal with the Internally Generated Revenue in line with Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended; and that states without such law should put it in place.

Abioye said it is his union’s position that there must be some level of seriousness from all quarters and, as such, the amount standing to the credit of the judiciary from the monthly federal allocation should be deducted directly from the source by the Accountant General of the Federation and remit same to the National Judicial Council (NJC) for onward transmission to heads of courts.

He said for the Federation Consolidated Account also known as Federal Allocation, the budget of each state judiciary submitted to the implementation committee (received) on October 2, 2020 should be implemented by deducting the amount due to the state judiciary directly from source by Accountant General of the Federation AGF) in line with Sections 81(3) and 162(9) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) for the states. “In other words, the AGF should deduct from the monthly Federal Allocation and remit it to NJC for onward transmission of the fund to the Heads of Courts at the State Judiciary.

“Until this is done, there is no going back, the strike would go on.’’ However, the CJN said it has become difficult to fault the idea of the strike since the rights of the union and its members which are clearly defined in the Constitution are being denied, especially at state level. ‘’I can’t fault your reasons for embarking on this protest because the union wants its rights restored in line with the provisions of the Constitution. I commend you for following due process so far to protest against the injustice,’’ the CJN said.

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Judiciary

JUSUN to call off strike after reconcilatory meeting with NBA

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The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, (JUSUN), has reportedly accepted the proposals made by governors in their quest for a resolution of the industrial crisis caused by the clamour by judicial workers for the implementation of financial autonomy for the judicial arm of government.

Reports gathered that the Union accepted the proposal during a meeting between its leaders and the representatives of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, which held on Tuesday in Abuja.

Consequently, according to the source, the Union has agreed to call off the strike subject to few clarifications and guarantee from the governors.

According to the NBA 1st Vice President, Mr John Aikpokpo-Martins, “The purpose of the working meeting was to mutually consider the new proposals from the Governors with a view of harmonising views and having common grounds on the issues at stake.

“The meeting accepted the proposals of the Governors in principle subject however too few clarifications and expected guarantees from the Federal Government for the strike to be called off. The said clarifications are necessary to arrive at a final agreement to be signed by all stakeholders.

“JUSUN has agreed to call off the strike immediately the clarifications sought are made, the expected guarantees given by the Federal Government and a final agreement for the implementation of Section 121(3) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is signed,” he said.

He explained further that JUSUN will make a statement on this position soon and hopefully, the strike action may be called off in days.

He added, “We therefore positively look forward to the all conciliatory/mediatory meeting earlier slated for today to be rescheduled by the Minister of Labour.”

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Judiciary

Why Are Governors Afraid of Judicial Autonomy?

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If the offices of the governors are a creation of the Constitution, why are those who occupy them continue to violate the provisions of the same law in respect to financial autonomy for the judiciary? Asks Davidson Iriekpen

For another week last Friday, courts across the country remained closed after the meeting between the umbrella body of judiciary workers in Nigeria, Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and representatives of the federal government ended with no concrete solutions.

The meeting was postponed again to this week.

The workers have been on strike since April 6 to press home their demands for a complete financial autonomy for the judiciary.

At the meeting to end the lingering crisis last Thursday, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, reiterated that the federal government had no problem with the issue of financial autonomy for the judiciary. He said the appropriate laws for judiciary autonomy have been signed into law and that implementation lies with state governments and governors.

JUSUN had on April 1, 2021, directed its members across the country to shut down all courts on April 6, a directive that has since crippled both court proceedings and commercial activities within the court premises across the country.

This was immediately followed by a nationwide peaceful protest in furtherance of their demand for the 36 states to implement financial autonomy for the judiciary. Its reason for the indefinite strike and protest is to press home the demand for financial autonomy for the country’s judicial arm of government.

For decades, despite constitutional provisions guaranteeing financial autonomy to the judiciary, state governments have found increasingly innovative and pernicious ways of subjugating and emasculating the judiciary. While many would understand why this was so under the military rule, the same cannot be said under a democracy.

Years of financial strangulation, and a brazen subversion of the constitution, have driven the judiciary to impotence, incapacitation and impoverishment.

Incidentally, with the exception of governors, who now find themselves prevaricating over unambiguous constitutional provisions, no Nigerian is opposed to JUSUN or their strike. So far, the industrial action has been tremendously effective, totally grounding the country’s groggy justice system, and is more effective than any the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has ever organised in the past two decades.

The attendant consequences of the strike have left non-litigants, who are largely business people, reeling from the courts closure. Court users and non-litigants, alike, have been venting their anger and frustrations as life becomes more difficult with the nationwide shutdown of the entire third arm of government entering its fifth week today.

To many Nigerians, granting financial autonomy to the judiciary is one major way with which the judiciary can be truly independent. They posit that if the country’s democracy was a true constitutional democracy, the issue of granting financial independence to the judiciary should not have arisen.

According to a public affairs commentator, Festus Ogun, “subjecting the judiciary to the shadow of the executive through financial dependence is to make nonsense of the independence of the judiciary and compromise the course of justice. The only way judicial independence can materialise is to bestow on it financial willpower.”

While the federal government feels that it has since complied with the relevant sections of the constitution, which grants financial autonomy to the judiciary, and the various judgments regarding complete autonomy for the judiciary, the state governors have refused to follow suit.

President of the union, Comrade Mustapha Marwan, who spoke with journalists in Abuja recently, said the state chief executive officers have frustrated financial autonomy for the judicial arm of government. He added that this situation has left magistrate and customary courts across the country in a sorry state, with dilapidated court buildings not suitable for court sittings.

By law, the independence of the judiciary is not only guaranteed, its financial autonomy remains the pillar upon which indirect control and manipulation is resisted. Sections 121 and 81 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) provide succinctly for the financial autonomy of the judiciary.

Section 121(3) explicitly provides that, “Any amount standing to the credit of the judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State shall be paid directly to the heads of the court concerned”. If the Constitution is very clear on an issue, it begs the question why the Governors have chosen to take the path of executive recklessness.

Incidentally, the sacred provisions of the Constitution in respect to financial autonomy of the judiciary have been given judicial blessing by the courts. In cases separately filed by JUSUN and Dr. Olisa Agbakoba SAN against the federal government, the court upheld the financial independence of the judiciary as a constitutional stipulation that cannot be waived or varied by the executive. This, still did not change anything.

But last year, sensing that the state governors were not willing to comply with neither the constitutional provisions nor the court judgments, President Muhammadu Buhari issued Executive Order 10 of 2020 to compel the states to obey the constitution, the governors coaxed the president to tarry a little on gazetting the order, thus stymieing the immediate implementation of the order.

While it is not clear why that anomalous stricture of gazettes had to be introduced, nor why it is needed especially, in clear constitutional cases, the governors seized upon that hiatus to go to court to litigate and forestall the Executive Order, as if the order was the issue, and not their violation of the constitution. The case is pending before the Supreme Court.

What the governors have issues with is perhaps the concomitant amendment in the same Section 121 (3) of the 1999 constitution, which also gives the states legislature financial autonomy. State governors have since seen the autonomies granted the judiciary and legislature as a complete castration of their powers and imperial persons.

For decades they had subjugated the other two arms of government. They fear that if the other arms no longer had to make recourse to the executives for their financial needs, they would look the governors in the eyes and check their excesses with great daring and gusto. The governors may have reservations about judicial financial autonomy, but what ails them more is the freedom which that financial autonomy would give the state lawmakers, freedoms that might conceivably include impeaching any lawless governor.

To many, the refusal to grant financial autonomy to the judiciary by the governors speaks volume of the level of unconstitutionality, lawlessness and impunity the country deals with. Therefore, they believe that the state chief executives cannot cherry-pick what aspect of the constitution to obey,neither can they set a particular time to obey the constitution.

To put it straight, Ogun said, “The Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state, established under Section 120 of the Constitution, is not a personal property of the executive. It belongs to the executive, legislature and judiciary. So, keeping what rightfully belongs to other arms of government is an abuse. The offices of the governors are a creation of the law and those who occupy them cannot continue to whimsically act as though they are above the law.”

Knowing the recalcitrant position of the governors had taken all along on this issue, many observers are anxiously waiting to see how the dispute would be resolved.

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Judiciary

JUSUN urges Buhari invoke Executive Order 10, deduct Judiciary allocation

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The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, JUSUN, has urged President Muhammadu to direct the Attorney-General of the Federation and Accountant General to deduct monies standing to the credit of the judiciary.

The Deputy President of JUSUN, Emmanuel Abioye, told the News Agency of Nigeria in a telephone interview in Abuja.

We call on the President to invoke his powers under Executive Order 10, by advising the Accountant General of the Federation to deduct at source, all funds due to State Judiciaries, and to pay same directly to the Heads of Courts in States that have refused to comply with the Executive Order 10, as constitutional directives are non-negotiable,” he said.

NAN reports that the union had, on May 5, vowed that the industrial action embarked upon to demand financial autonomy for state judiciaries would not be called off until the governors complied with the constitutional provisions.

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.

However on May 6, after a conciliation meeting between the government negotiating team with JUSUN and the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria, PASAN, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, expressed optimism that the workers’ union would soon call off the strike.

They had fixed another meeting for Tuesday, May 11, for the unions to consult with their various National Executive Committees on the government proposal to their members.

My call to the Federal Government in this instance is that directive should be given to the public officer who is meant to carry out that assignment.

“And who is the person? It is the Accountant General of the Federation maybe through the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).

“In all these, we don’t even need the consent of the governors before the needful is done,” he said.

The union leader, who stated that Sections 121(3), 81(3) and 162(9) of the constitution clearly stipulated the autonomy of the judiciary and legislature, said it was disappointing that since Jan. 13, 2014, when the union got the Federal High Court judgment in its favour, the law was yet to be implemented.

 

What is needed is that the Accountant General of the Federation in conjunction with the directive of the AGF whatever ought to have deducted the money from the source,” he said.

President Muhammadu Buhari had, on May 22, 2020, signed into law an Executive Order granting financial autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary across the 36 states of the federation.

The Executive Order No. 10 of 2020 made it mandatory for all states to include the allocations of both the legislature and the judiciary in the first-line charge of their budgets.

The order also mandates the accountant general of the federation to deduct from source amount due to the state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocation to each state, for states that refuse to grant such autonom

NAN

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