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JUSUN ignores NBA’s plea, shuts down courts nationwide

…as CJN seeks strike’s suspension

 

The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) yesterday commenced a nationwide indefinite strike action to press home its demand for full fiscal autonomy for the judiciary.

 

The strike began amidst call by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on the leadership of JUSUN to shelve the action.

 

The NBA had, in a statement signed by its President, Olumide Akpata, said it was concerned about the timing and the devastating effects the industrial action will have on the administration of justice, particularly as it is coming on the heels of a prolonged lull in judicial activities owing to COVID- 19 pandemic and the enforced lockdowns. However, despite the plea from the NBA, JUSUN went ahead with the strike action by shutting down all courts across the country.

 

In Lagos, the state High Courts at Ikeja and Igbosere, Federal High Court, Appeal Court as well as the National Industrial Court, were locked up by officials of JUSUN.

 

The union members invaded the Ikeja High Court headquarters of the Lagos Judiciary, shut the gates and ensured that no one, including judges and staff members, entered the court premises.

 

A banner with the inscription of JUSUN was boldly displayed at the gate of the court. At the Federal High Court in Lagos, JUSUN members enforcing the strike action evicted court staff from their various offices.

 

The unionists arrived at the court premises before 9 a.m. and directed their colleagues who were in courtrooms and offices to comply with the industrial action. They sealed some of the offices and pasted notices indicating the commencement of the court shutdown. In Rivers State, proceedings across courts were also halted owing to the strike.

 

The state chairperson of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Beatrice Utubor, was on ground to give solidarity to the striking workers. She expressed disappointment at state governors’ attitude of being selective in implementing the country’s laws.

 

On his part, JUSUN’s chairman in Rivers, Anthony Wachukwu, said the strike followed directives from the Union’s leadership and will continue in the state pending a counter-directive by the national leaders.

 

He said: “What is happening in the state’s judiciary today is not particular to the state; the situation is going on across the nation. No JUSUN member is working anywhere in the country today and it will continue till only God knows when. “JUSUN members in the country have withdrawn their services because the governments refused to grant the judiciary financial autonomy”.

 

The situation was also not different in Ondo State as entrances to all courts were locked by JUSUN officials. The courts, including the State High Court, Customary Court of Appeal, Federal Court of Appeal, Magistrates Courts and the Federal High Court were shut for lawyers, litigants and judges when New Telegraph visited yesterday.

 

The state’s Chairman of JUSUN, Femi Afolabi, said the courts were shut down because of the ongoing strike action initiated by national body of JUSUN.

In Akure, some lawyers and litigants returned home disappointed as they met gates of the court locked by JUSUN officers, while staff of the Federal High Court were forced out of the premises. In the meantime, the  Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, has urged JUSUN to suspend its ongoing strike.

 

A statement by Special Assistant to the CJN on Media and Publicity Strategy, Malam Ahuraka Isah, indicated that Justice Tanko made the call at a meeting with some national and local officials of the Union at his Chambers within the Supreme Court premises.

 

Isah said the CJN told the officials that the process of making the state governments to obey Order 10 and various court judgments on the autonomy of the judiciary are being implemented.

 

“The unintended sufferers of this strike are better imagined than seen. It has spiral effects, including our children, the Federal Judiciary which is a lesser culprit. Ordinarily, I would say let me talk to individual 36 state governors, which amount to asking for their favours,” he said.

 

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