Law News
Judiciary workers’ strike illegal, says NBA

Courts in Akure were shut on Monday as judicial workers in the state joined their counterparts across the country in a strike to protest the non-implementation of the Federal High Court judgment on the financial autonomy of the judiciary.

The Industrial Court, Court of Appeal, Federal High Court, State High Courts and other lower courts were not opened for activities in compliance with the strike action.

But the Chairman of the Akure branch of the Nigeria Bar Association, Mr. Lawrence Dare, has described the action as illegal.

“You cannot go on strike on a matter that is not related to an industrial dispute. The court has passed a judgment and the matter has been resolved.

“If you need to ensure the implementation of the judgment, you return to the court and, perhaps, sue for contempt. The strike action is illegal, null and void,” he said.

According to Dare, it is a contradiction that the court that gave judgment in favour of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria has been closed down in respect of the judgment.

“If the court was closed down when they wanted to seek the interpretation to the provisions of the Constitution, how would it have been done?” He queried.

Dare also rejected the call for such autonomy that would put money in the hands of judges, saying such would corrupt judges and made the system a laughing stock.

The Ondo State Chairman of JUSUN, Mr. Femi Ogunode, justified the strike, saying it was going to be a total in Ondo State.

He said the strike would continue until their demands were met, noting that it was needful for stakeholders to respect the Memorandum of Understanding signed regarding the implementation of the financial autonomy.

“It is a constitutional matter. We have gone to court to seek the interpretation to Sections 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution, and the court ruled in favour of the financial autonomy of the judiciary.

“We thought they would commence implementation December 2014, but that was not done. So, we are expecting the government to respect the decision of the court,” Ogunode said.

Meanwhile, the Edo State chapter of the NBA has attributed the unwillingness of some state governments to implement the court judgement, which granted financial autonomy to the judiciary, to the fear of the governors losing their influence in the arm of government.

The state Chairman of the association, Mrs. Priscillia Iyomon, in an interview with our correspondent at the state secretariat in Benin, wondered why many governors would refuse to implement the autonomy when a pending court decision existed on the matter.

Iyomon, who lamented that the industrial action by the workers would create a delayý in the nation’s judicial system, appealed to the state Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, to adopt the decision of the Abuja Federal High Court which granted financial autonomy to the judiciary on January 13, 2014.

“The farm that we have is the court and the courts are all locked because of the JUSUN strike. They (judicial workers) want to have that independence; as a matter of fact, it is a clear court case. There is a pending decision, a pending judgment. Not until the judgement is set aside, it stands.

“If some states have already started implementing the court decision, then we see no reason why Edo State should not follow suit. We know that our governor came via the rule of law. So, we also believe that he should follow suit so that this hue and cry for judicial autonomy will be a thing of the past.

“They are saying they don’t want to go cap in hand begging. I think the state government should heed the advice, and more importantly, abide by the decision that the court has taken,” she said.

Also speaking, the state Public Relations Officer, Ebosele Okhifor, urged the state governors to appeal the judgment, if they felt aggrieved. He added that making the judiciary financially independent was a constitutional matter which should be complied with.

While pledging the support of the bar for the workers, Okhifor argued that the implementation of the judgment would free the arm of government from executive interference.

“If the governors feel aggrieved by that judgement, the proper thing for them to do is to go and appeal that decision. But while that decision is on appeal, they have to first of all obey it. Grant judicial autonomy to the judiciary; it is in the constitution. They are supposed to control their money.

“But I must say that the reason why governors seem not to like the judgment is that they know that they have a way of interfering with the judiciary. By the time this financial autonomy is granted to the judiciary, they know that it will be the beginning of the end of their influence over the judicial arm and it is not supposed to be so.

“The state governors should please emulate Delta and Bayelsa states. Let them grant judicial autonomy to judicial staff.”

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