There is no doubt that various Courts in Nigeria have been grounded consequent upon the indefinite strike action embarked upon by judicial workers under the auspices of Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) on the 6th of April, 2021 on the backdrop of the failure of State Government to implement the financial autonomy of the Judiciary.
As a concerned member of the Bar, a Labour Leader and an Advocate for the enthronement of rule of law and justice, I am compelled to pensively and dispassionately analyse the issues at hand and lend my two cent while admonishing the leadership of JUSUN to “cease fire”.
As a prefatory, there is no gainsaying the fact the cause of members of JUSN is not a causeless as same is an echo of the extant provisions of the Constitution. It must be noted that the benchmark for the assessment of any democratic government is the independence of its judiciary. This is because democracy is built on the twin doctrines of separation of powers and the rule of law. This is why the Constitution clearly delineate the powers of each of the three arms government and also provides instances where they work together. Any short of these instances is tantamount to rule of arbitrariness which is frown upon by all democracies in the world.
It is interesting to note that the provisions of Constitution are clear to the extent that the Judiciary both at the Federal and State Level shall be independent. A careful perusal of Section 81 and 121 of the Constitution will reveal that the burden of the welfare and maintenance of judges is placed on the National Judicial Council and not on the governors.
For the sake of emphasis, Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution provides as follows:
“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 courts concerned”.
It is therefore patent that the refusal of the Governors to comply with the extant provisions of Law amounts to a total infraction of the provisions of the Constitution.
Without prejudice to the right agitations of members of JUSUN as clearly enunciated above, it must be noted that the importance of a functional judiciary at all times cannot be overstated and even more in these times to maintain law and order in a drastically burdened and changing society as ours.
While the issue at hand is not res integra, the Leadership of JUSUN should take a clue from the incessant strike action embarked upon by ASUU including other Trade Unions in Nigeria and its consequent implications. The point I am painstakingly driving home is that, strike action is not the ultimate panacea to resolve disputes, each case has to be decided based on the circumstances surrounding it and parties involved.
The leadership of JUSUN is thus admonished to look inward and consider a more beneficial approach to ensure that their agitations are implemented by these erring Governors and not allow same to inimically affect the fundamental rights of the Citizens and the confidence reposed in the judiciary by members of the society.
In order to permanently tackle this impasse, it is advised that the Attorney General of the Federation as the Chief Law Officer of the Federation should approach the Supreme Court pursuant to the provisions of Section 232(1) of the 1999 Constitution for an Order of Court to deduct at source from the Federating Account and Consolidated Revenue Fund of the States, any amount standing to the credit of the Judiciary.
As a corollary, each Attorney General of the States should ensure due compliance with the extant and clear provisions of the Constitution as the Chief Law officer of the State.
-Sir. Kayode Ajulo, PhD