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online Judicial strike is valid, proper, says Adegboruwa

LAGOS-BASED human rights lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, has thrown his weight behind the ongoing nationwide strike embarked upon by the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), saying it is valid and proper.

JUSUN had on January 2, 2015 commenced a nationwide strike action to campaign for judicial autonomy and independence and funding of the judiciary as delivered in a court judgment. The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Augustine Alegeh (SAN) and few other branch chairmen had earlier urged judiciary workers in the country to call off the strike and pursue amicable resolution. According to him, the strike action had caused untold hardship on lawyers, and therefore should be resolved.

But Adegboruwa said such appeals to call off the strike is disturbing. “It has been very disturbing for me, listening to and reading comments by legal practitioners, denouncing the strike action, whilst our umbrella body, the Nigerian Bar Association, has called on JUSUN to suspend the strike and explore other options. I beg to differ, with all due respect.

“First, section 39 of the 1999 Constitution grants the freedom of expression, to every citizen and that freedom can be exercised through protests, strike actions, or other legitimate methods of civil protests. To that extent, the JUSUN strike is valid in law and supported by the Constitution.

“Second, sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Constitution create the three arms of government to be the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary, and no one arm is to interfere with the duties and functions of the other arm. Since independence, the Judiciary has become the whipping organ of the other arms of government, totally starved of funds, controlled at will by the Executive and reduced to mere rubber stamps, by the Legislature, through ouster clauses and obnoxious laws”, he stated.

Adegboruwa therefore declared that any action taken to wean the Judiciary from oppression and bondage, whether by way of strike, court action or otherwise, should be supported by all democrats and indeed all lawyers.

His words: “This should have been a cause championed by the NBA and indeed all lawyers and now that JUSUN has risen to the occasion, what they deserve is our collective solidarity, not condemnation, which may tend to discourage or distract their struggle.

“In the normal democratic culture, there should have been no need for JUSUN or anybody to embark upon any action to compel government to abide by a valid judgment of court. This is because under and by virtue of section 287 (3) of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, the decisions of a Federal High Court “… shall be enforced in any part of the Federation by all authorities and persons …”.

And it becomes more shocking and worrisome, that state governors are the ones at the fore front of the hindrance to the enforcement of the judgment of court granting financial autonomy to the judiciary.

“It is indeed hypocritical, especially for those described as ‘progressives’, to be clamouring for change, when we are not ready to apply the basic democratic principle of separation of powers. For any change to be meaningful, it must be holistic. I believe that the Accountant General of Federation does not require the consent of state governments to comply with the order of the court.”

Consequently, he urged all members of JUSUN to be steadfast, vigilant, unmovable and unshaken in their resolve to prosecute the strike to its logical conclusion, once and for all.

He pledged that they have his loyalty and support and indeed the support of Nigerians, lawyers and true democrats. The lawyer also promised to provide legal services free of charge to the union if need be.

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