Judiciary workers begin indefinite strike nationwide

By The Citizen

As judiciary workers began an indefinite strike on Monday, the President of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), Mr. Mustapha Adamu, has said that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation should be blamed for the failure of the federal government to implement the judgment of the Federal High Court which stopped the executive from holding on to the funds meant for them.

In an interview with THISDAY, Adamu said states' accountants-general had also frustrated the implementation of the judgment, as he however commended the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity for making strenuous efforts to resolve the impasse between the union and the federal government.

He said: 'Remember that this judgment was delivered in January 2014, since then, government has engaged us in discussion for about 20 times. We entered memorandum of understanding (MoU) for seven times and the office of the Accountant General refused to obey the court judgment.

He said: 'There is an order directing him to deduct that money and pay to the National Judicial Council (NJC) and he failed to do this. Also, all the state governors through their accountants-general and commissioners for finance, who are all members of the Federal Allocation Account Committee (FACC), have equally contributed to bring us to where we are today.

'We have accommodated them, tolerated them, but since this is what they prefer, we have decided to give it to them as a New Year gift.'

He said in refusing to comply with an order of a court of competent jurisdiction, the federal government would foist anarchy on the nation.

The workers effectively closed down all courts nationwide, following the refusal of the executive to comply with a judgment of a Federal High Court, Abuja which ordered the executive to hands off funds meant for the judiciary.

Adamu said the workers decided to go on an indefinite strike because the executive did not comply with the agreement reached with the union to comply with the judgment of the court on judiciary funding.

While sympathising with the litigants, he said the workers had no choice but to go on strike to compel implementation of a subsisting court order and the agreement reached with them.

THISDAY reports that the strike led to a total shut down of the courts at the Federal Capital Territory.

At the Federal High Court located at the Central Business District, judges, lawyers and workers were politely turned back. The situation was the same at the Abuja High Court, which is in the Maitama District

The strike is coming at a crucial period when many politicians, who are dissatisfied with their parties' primaries, are hoping that the courts would come to their rescue. The court had restrained the federal government and the 36 states of the federation from holding on to funds budgeted for the judiciary.

Justice Adeniyi Ademola, while delivering judgment in a suit filed by the Judiciary Staff Association of Nigeria (JUSUN) held that the workers had the standing to ask both the federal government and the states to comply with the provisions of the constitution on the funding of the judiciary.

He ordered that funds meant for the judiciary should be released directly to the heads of courts and not to the executive arm of government.

Justice Ademola described the disbursement of funds for the judiciary by the executive as unconstitutional and threat to the independence of the judiciary.

Relying on the provisions of sections 83(1), 212(3) and 162(9) of the constitution, Justice Ademola said the provisions were clear and straightforward and should, therefore be complied with.

He said: 'The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and the states should act responsibly and promptly to avoid constitutional crisis in this country   by ensuring financial autonomy for the judiciary.'

According to him, the end has come for the judiciary to continue to beg the executive for funds.

He held that the piecemeal allocation of funds to the judiciary at the pleasure of the federal government and states was unconstitutional, un-procedural, cumbersome, null, void, and should be abated forthwith.

The association had listed the NJC, the federal government and the 36 states as defendants in the suit and stated its dissatisfied with the way and manner the Federation Account/Consolidated Revenue Fund of the federal and states were being handled, adding that its members' welfare had suffered as a result of the practice.

The judge agreed with them and declared that the defendants' failure to pay the funds standing to the credit of the states' judiciary directly to the heads of courts in the various states' judiciary was a constitutional breach and must stop.

Justice Ademola also compelled the defendants to comply with the provisions of sections 81(3), 212(3) and 162(9) of the 1999 Constitution in the disbursement of funds to the heads of courts forthwith.

He issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from committing any further breach of the aforesaid constitutional provisions.

The judge noted that both the National Assembly and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) enjoyed independence of funding and that the same should apply to the judiciary in accordance with the constitution.

To ensure that the orders made are complied with, Justice Ademola made ancillary orders to the effect that the judgment be served on the Accountant General of the Federation and the accountants general of all the 36 states to enable them comply with the orders.

Some of the states' counsel promised to serve the judgment on their respective states' accountants general and promised to comply.

Justice Ademola also ordered that the judgment be served on the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the speakers of the 36 states of the federation to enable them comply with the judgment.

With JUSUN's resumption of its suspended indefinite nationwide strike, all High and Magistrates Courts in Lagos were shut.

The judiciary workers had accused all the 36 state governors of deliberately resisting the implementation of the judgment, which will put judiciary funds under the first line charge.

According to JUNSUN, the governors' refusal is frustrating the independence of the judiciary.

The story was not different in Edo State, as judicial services in various courts across the state were yesterday brought to a halt as members of the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria nationwide strike.

All the courts visited by THISDAY were under lock and key, with some members of the union at the entrance of the courts to prevent non-members from gaining access to the premises. Thisday