Striking members of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and lawyers, under the aegis of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), on Monday, protested in different parts of the country.
Their protest is against the alleged unwillingness of the government to respect the financial autonomy of the judiciary.
JUSUN members had, on April 6, embarked on the indefinite nationwide strike demanding the implementation of constitutional provisions granting financial autonomy to the third arm of government.
The industrial action has now grounded court activities for two weeks across the nation.
The union, on Friday, directed its members to embark on the protest across the country, after a meeting scheduled to be held between governors and officers of the union failed to hold on Wednesday. Another of such reconciliatory meeting was called off by the labour minister, Chris Ngige, at the last minute on Thursday.
Hours after JUSUN issued the protest directive to its members on Friday, NBA president, Olumide Akpata, directed branch chairmen of the association in all the 36 states of the federation to mobilise their members for visits to government houses to meet with their governors on how to meet the striking workers’ demand.
He similarly expressed sadness over the labour minister’s abrupt postponement of the Thursday’s meeting which the NBA was meant to participate in.
Mr Akpata had said the attitude of government officials and comments coming from some state government officials had shown that the governors were not prepared to meet the demand for judiciary’s financial autonomy, hence, the need to take more “decisive steps”.
He directed that branch chairmen of the association to “visit” government houses in all the states of the country every Monday until the demand is met.
In Abuja, NBA’s 1st Vice President, Aikpokpo-Martins, led some of the association’s national officers and members of NBA branches in Abuja to the National Assembly.
The lawyers started gathering at the entrance of the National Assembly at about 8.30a.m. on Monday.
They were denied entry.
Addressing journalists at the gate, Mr Aikpokpo-Martins, called on government “to obey the provisions of the constitution, particularly section 121(3) that says all the money standing to the credit of the judiciary in the state shall be paid to the heads of court, and that is what we are standing on.”
Members of JUSUN also protested in different parts of the country.
The National Treasurer of JUSUN, Jimoh Musa, who has been acting for the president of the union, Marwan Adamu, who is recuperating from auto-crash injuries, addressed a crowd of the striking workers in front of the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
The protest in Abuja was however cut short after Mr Musa informed JUSUN members that the labour minister had scheduled another meeting with the union on Tuesday.
In many states, JUSUN members were joined by members of the larger Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
The striking workers are demanding the implementation of section 121(3) of the constitution which places the state judiciaries and Houses of Assembly on the first line charge, which qualifies them to receive their funds directly from the consolidated revenue account.
The constitutional provision which has been affirmed by at least two court judgments stipulate that such funds standing to the credit of the judiciary in the consolidated revenue should be paid directly to the heads of court.
But what happens over the years, in contravention of the constitution and the court judgments, is that state governors take all the funds belonging to their states and merely release funds to the two arms of government as they please.
In 2015, JUSUN embarked on strike to press for the enforcement of the constitutional provision. But the strike was called off after three weeks at the federal level but continued much longer in various states.
President Muhammadu Buhari, in May 2020, signed an executive order for the enforcement of the constitutional provision relating to the financial autonomy of the state judiciary and legislature, but the governors have gone to court to challenge it.
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