The Lagos State chapter of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) has broken ranks with its national body to announce a partial suspension of the ongoing nationwide strike of judiciary workers.
The nationwide strike embarked upon by JUSUN on April 6, in protest against the denial of the judiciary its financial freedom from the executive, has shut down courts across the country for 17 days, as of Thursday.
But an online platform, LoyalNigerianLawyer, reports that a statement by the chair of the Lagos State chapter of JUSUN, Shobowale Kehinde, announced on Tuesday that judiciary workers in the state would now work on Wednesdays to Fridays and observe the nationwide strike only on Mondays and Tuesdays of every week.
Mr Kehinde, in the statement declaring a partial suspension of the strike in the state, said the chapter’s decision followed assurances by the government to meet its members’ “auxiliary demands”.
He said the chapter had, at various meetings, obtained the “best assurances” of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Chief Judge, Kazeem Alogba, for improved welfare packages for its members in the state.
‘National JUSUN concerned’
This points to a potential major crack within JUSUN’s fold, which may begin to manifest in other states, and eventually weaken the union’s resolve to sustain the strike till its demand is met.
The National Treasurer of JUSUN, Jimoh Musa, told PREMIUM TIMES Thursday morning that the union’s national leadership “is concerned” about the development and had started taking steps to address it.
“As I am speaking with you, I am about to board a flight to Lagos to meet with the union leadership in the state. The president instructed me to go to Lagos to find out what is really going on,” Mr Musa, who is acting for the union’s president, Marwan Adamu, said on Thursday.
JUSUN members throughout the country have been on strike since April 6 fighting for judiciary’s financial independence as provided for in the Nigerian constitution.
‘Lagos government has listening ears’
But the Lagos State chapter of JUSUN said it subscribed to partial suspension of the strike because the Lagos State government had proved to have listening ears.
This, according to the statement by its chair, led to the leadership of the government and judiciary in the state giving assurances to meet its members “auxiliary demands”.
In his statement entitled, ‘Addendum on Strike Day 16’, the branch chairman stated, “We had many interactions on strike situations with fellow state chairmen especially from Southwest, Southeast and Southsouth.
“Lagos JUSUN finds out that it’s only the Lagos State Government that had shown concern and seriousness with listening ears to this JUSUN struggle.
“At this moment, Lagos JUSUN has had four meetings with powerful government officials, especially Mr Governor himself.
“From my position and privileges as JUSUN chairman Lagos, we are indeed lucky. Even the national leadership hasn’t made significant progress as Lagos JUSUN does at the moment.
“Our auxiliary demands are being speedily looked into and results are manifesting,” the statement read in part.
Giving some specifics of the “auxiliary demands”, Mr Shobowale said both the state governor and the chief judge had pledged to improve on the welfare allowances as being agitated by the chapter, since 2014.
“Our union had the best assurances directly from Mr Governor and the Chief Judge of Lagos State on improving welfare allowances for staff which has eluded us since 2014.
“While showing commitment today with the delivery of two new buses to the judiciary while the House of Assembly had only one bus given to them even though both arms of government are currently on strike,” he added.
‘National body will achieve financial autonomy for all states’
In clear acknowledgement that the financial autonomy being agitated for by the national body of JUSUN was not yet in place in Lagos State, Mr Kehinde said that would be “achieved nationally” to the benefit of all members across the various states.
“Though there is a national agitation for financial autonomy, this will be achieved nationally and all states will benefit from it,” the statement read.
‘Strike still ongoing, but relaxed’
The statement said the Lagos chapter lacked the power to suspend a national strike, “hence JUSUN strike is very much ongoing in Lagos State”.
It added, “But due to the great respect and honour Lagos state judiciary staff has for Mr Governor and the Chief Judge of Lagos State, it’s our desire only to relax the strike rules to allow clearance of backlogs, reading of judgement and decongestion of prisons occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic and End SARS protest.”
It stated further that the chapter would therefore partially suspend the strike by limiting work days to “Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of every week, while Monday and Tuesday of every week remains our strike days that all staff must stay off duty to observe the national strike.”
It promised that the chapter would “review the progress” and would make “informed decisions as the events unfold.
Reiterating that the staff of Lagos State judiciary “is still on strike”, the chapter added that it “was magnanimous in putting Lagos judiciary and the government of Lagos State first in our time of strength.”
“All gates of courts in Lagos State will be partially open on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday only. Life itself is all about give and take. The congress says it’s time to give so that it can be given to us all,” the statement added.
The union had embarked on the ongoing strike on April 6 demanding the implementation of section 121(3) of the Nigerian constitution conferring financial independence on the judiciary at the state level.
Going by the constitutional provision, the judiciary and the legislature are to receive their allocations directly from the consolidated revenue account of the federation.
JUSUN, in its longstanding battle to achieve the enforcement of the constitutional provision, had in January 2014, obtained a judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, abolishing piecemeal funding of the judiciary and ordering an immediate compliance with the process of funds disbursement as provided in the constitution.
However, in disobedience to the constitution and the court judgment, state governors have continued to receive all the funds meant for the state and only release money to the judiciary and the legislature as they please.
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