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JUSUN Strike: Open The Courts Before People Resort To Self Help- Constitutional Lawyer Warnss

by Anita Ogona

THE CONTINUATION OF THE JUSUN STRIKE :AN ANATHEMA.

By Angus Obinna Chukwuka

It is common knowledge that the judiciary Staff Union Of Nigeria (JUSUN) commenced a national strike since Tuesday ,6 April 2021.This is nearing three weeks now and JUSUN is not berthing an eyelid..It is also true that the reason given for the strike is for the implementation of fiscal autonomy .In effect JUSUN is fighting that the executive arm of government should allow the judicial arm of government to control , manage or expend its own portion of the national / state resources as it deems fit instead of going cap in hands each time to beg for approved sums.

But we know that fiscal or financial autonomy of the judiciary has clearly being provided by the constitution. We also.know that president of Nigeria and his federal executive officers as well as the governors of the federating states and their executive officers all swore to promote and protect the provisions of the constitution , including the provision on fiscal autonomy of the judiciary.It therefore amounts to executive rascality for the executives to fail ,refuse or neglect to implement the very constitution they swore to protect before entering into office. Pursuant to sections 135 and 185 of the constitution . JUSUN may therefore have provided a rational basis for embarking on the strike.

However ,that strike has outlived its welcome because not only has it failed to yield positive result it is also causing serious hardships and anomaly in the society.

First is that the strike is inhibiting access to the court of law and by implication justice.The courts are supposed at all times ,to be open so that aggrieved persons can access them to ventilate their grievances .Shutting the court down often increases the tendency for people to resort to self help .It becomes even more imperative now that we know that some miscreants are now taking to jail breaks as a way of accessing liberty .One does not need a fortune teller to know that the continuation of JUSUN strike is infact worsening the plight of correctional centre, particularly awaiting trial persons..Lets not forget that by the provisions of Section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution such persons are innocent till proven guilty through a court of competent jurisdiction.The awaiting trial persons and other inmates languish in the correctional centres without palpable hopes of judicial intervention. They are at the mercy of JUSUN instead

Even more disturbing is the fact that cases which ought to have been filed shortly before the strike or at some point during the strike are now becoming statute barred. The implication is that by the time the strike is over those matters can no longer be filed .The aggrieved persons may have legally lost their rights or remedies for ever due to this JUSUN strike.Does JUSUN know that the destinies and fortunes of many, including generations unborn will depend on some of these cases that would be or have become statute barred.

Then there are traders ,and merchants whose businesses revolve around the courts.The effects of the continued shutdown of courts by JUSUN on these poor souls are easily predictable .Nobody needs a prophet Elijah to imagine the level of abject poverty to which they have now been subjected,them and their dependants.And we cannot hope that crime will not increase nor would we assert that our employment rating is getting better by JUSUN strike.

I do not want to zero in on what the lawyers all over Nigeria are going through at this time particularly litigation lawyers who eat by an open court. Within this bracket you have the junior lawyers and your guess is as good as mine , aa regards their welfare status right now.If this strike continues we may have needs for new lexicon to describe with precision the state of affairs.

It is for this reason that I believe JUSUN should be honorable enough to call off this strike.

JUSUN does not have what it takes to succeed on its demand.It does not have a coercive power to cause the executive arm of government to implement fiscal autonomy of the judiciary. What will JUSUN do if the president and governors refuse ? Can JUSUN sanction the president or governor ?

A capital NO. So if so why the pretence? Why the suffering?Why is JUSUN suffering everybody apart from themselves because of fiscal autonomy? Is it because they will still get paid their salaries for the period of the strike?.Suppose the JUSUN members are to be denied their salaries during the strike period is it possible they will still be on strike by now ? Would they have even gone on strike in the first place? Your guess is as good as mine.

Why can’t we use constitutional means to address implementation of judicial autonomy? Why are we not telling ourselves the truth- allowing JUSUN to spoil an already bad situation.
The 1999 constitution provides for checks and balances whereby the legislature can impeach a president or a governor. And clearly failure to implement the constitution is an impeachable offence.By section 143 the National Assembly legislators can remove or impeach the president.Similarly
by Section 188 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria , the House of Assembly members can impeach a governor or deputy governor .I submit respectfully that failure to implement fiscal autonomy is enough grounds within the purview of Sections 143 and 188 of the constitution for the removal of those executive officers who breach our grund norm .So the point is that the legislature can take the executive to task by threatening to impeach them or actually impeaching them. This is a more coercive and reliable method of securing fiscal autonomy.We need to ‘lobby our l egislators for fiscal autonomy to pull through. But where the legislators refuse then the masses should wield the big stick
What is the big stick?.Recall of course. The constitution gives the right or powers to the electorates or masses to recall those they voted into the legislative houses to represent them. Specifically Section 69 of the constitution provides for recall of a federal legislator by the members of his constituency .Section 110 of the 1999 constitution provides for recall of Members of house of Assembly of a state by the people of the member’s constituency .Hence if the masses are dead serious about fiscal autonomy let them compel the legislators to compel the executives to implement fiscal autonomy.

There is no doubt therefore that the constitution has provided adequate measures for dealing with the executive’s failure to implement fiscal autonomy. JUSUN strike is simply overboard and pretentious. Democracy is government of the people by the people and for the people .JUSUN should allow the people to fight through the constitutional means. Rather than suffering the people by their uncalled for and misguided strike action.

The time to call it off is immediately. A stitch in time saves nine.

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