Some sections of Lagos State judiciary workers on Thursday commenced a partial resumption of work amid the ongoing nationwide strike by their counterparts in other parts of the country.
But PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the national leadership of the body of all judiciary workers, the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) has immediately activated counter-moves to restore a total compliance with the ongoing strike in the state.
JUSUN members across the country had on April 6 embarked on the nationwide strike, shutting down all courts across the country, to press home their demand for financial autonomy for the third arm of government.
But the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that some sections of the Lagos State judiciary workers partially resumed work on Thursday with a plan to work for three days and observe the strike in the rest of the two workdays of every week.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the part-reopening of the courts followed a directive by the Director, Administration and Human Resources, Lagos State judiciary, Kamal Sanusi, ordering the workers to be at work on Wednesdays to Fridays, and stay at home on Mondays and Tuesday of every week, in partial suspension of the nationwide strike in the state.
The directive echoes the plan for partial suspension of the strike earlier announced by the chair of JUSUN in Lagos State, Shobowale Kehinde, who claimed government and judiciary authorities were at the verge of meeting his members’ “auxiliary demands” in the state.
But following the objection of the national leadership of JUSUN to the plan, Mr Kehinde, later backtracked , saying it was a mere proposal by the Lagos State government and required the approval of the union’s national body.
But some court officials who spoke with NAN said they resumed duties on Thursday on the directive of Lagos State JUSUN.
NAN reports that at the main gate of the Ikeja High Court complex was locked while the pedestrian gate was opened to members of the public on Thursday.
The courtroom registry, according to NAN, was also opened and individuals were observed filing and getting documents including affidavits stamped.
No prison vans nor prison warders were seen on the court premises.
The holding cell of the courthouse was empty because inmates were not brought in from the correctional centers for trial.
The Roseline Omotoso Courthouse which houses the Special Offences and Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences courtroom was also open, but there was no activity in all the courtrooms.
NAN reporter also observed that he courtrooms of the court’s judges, Christopher Balogun, Modupe Onyeabor and Oluwatoyin Taiwo were locked.
Some courtroom staff members were observed standing in clusters and having conversations, while some others were sitting and working at their desks.
A court registrar, who pleaded anonymity, told NAN that there was unlikely to be any significant activity in the court until the coming week.
“We came here following the directives of JUSUN, we are organising the courtrooms after a period of inactivity.
“Hopefully by next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the courts here will resume fully,” the source said.
‘Ignore directive for partial resumption’
Reacting to the reported reopening of the courts in Lagos State on Thursday, the national body of the union, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Koin Selepreye, urged its members in the Lagos State chapter to ignore the directive for a part suspension of the strike.
“Our attention has been drawn to the referenced publication signed by one Mr. Sanusi, Kamal A. (Dir. Admin/HR) requesting workers of Lagos State Judiciary to be on their duty posts on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays of every week, from Thursday, April 29, 2021.
“The National Working Committee has taken steps to curb this ugly situation and requests all workers to disregard this directive as no state has the authority to suspend the ongoing strike, Lagos inclusive,” the statement read in part.
To emphasise that the strike was still nationwide, Ms Selepreye, wrote in block letters, “THE STRIKE IS STILL VERY MUCH ON UNTIL WE REACH A CONCLUSION.”
“We are kindly requested to disseminate this information to reach all workers especially the Lagos State judiciary workers,” she added.
‘Union leaders mobilised to enforce strike compliance in Lagos’
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, the National Treasurer of JUSUN, Jimoh Musa, said leaders of the union in the neighbouring states had been mobilised to go to Lagos on Thursday “to enforce compliance with the strike.”
He said the JUSUN chairman in Lagos State, Mr Kehinde, had distanced himself from the partial resumption of judiciary workers in the state on Thursday.
“In fact, he told us that he was sick and had been on hospital admission. He said he was only asked to go home to today to continue his bed rest,” Mr Musa said.
‘No date for fresh meeting with government’
In what appeared to be an indication that the strike, which has already been on for 24 days, will not be resolved soon, Mr Musa told this newspaper on Thursday that no new date has been fixed for a conciliatory meeting with government representatives.
The last one convened by the labour minister, Chris Ngige, could not hold due unexplained delay which prompted the representatives of the union to walk out of the venue of the scheduled meeting on April 20.
JUSUN, however, later apologised to the minister over the walkout.
The union, through its apology letter signed by its General Secretary, Isiah Adetola, explained that its officers, many of whom it said were Muslims undergoing fasting, had to leave the venue after waiting for about two hours without any communication from the minister.
JUSUN members embarked on the ongoing strike on April 6 in agitation for financial freedom from executive arm of government at various states.
The union is demanding the implementation of section 121(3) of the Nigerian constitution and the January 2014 judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja conferring financial autonomy on the third arm of government.
Nigerian governors, through the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, who is the chair of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), had promised to begin to comply with the union’s demand by May ending.
But the union had dismissed the pledge which they say is not being matched with action.
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