The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) on Wednesday reviewed its 44-day-old nationwide strike and vowed to continue the crippling industrial action until its demand is met.
Courts at both the state and federal levels have been paralysed across the country since when the strike began on April 6.
JUSUN’s resolution to continue the strike on Wednesday’s comes barely 24 hours after the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Tanko Muhammad, appealed to the union to return to work.
The resolution also comes on the heels of the union’s April 8 resolution rejecting the 36 state governors’ proposed template for the implementation of the judiciary’s financial autonomy which the workers are pressing for.
Rising from the meeting of its National Executive Council (NEC) on Wednesday, the union in its communique penned in a-fight-to-the-finish tone, insisted that the strike would not be called off until its demand for the judiciary’s financial autonomy was achieved.
“NEC-in-Session vows to continue with the ongoing industrial action until the provision of the constitution is fully complied with as the provisions of the constitution are non-negotiable,” the union’s communique signed by its National Deputy President, Emmanuel Abioye, and its General Secretary, Isiah Adetola, read in part.
It threatened to “deal” with any of its state chapters “found not fully complying with its directive on the ongoing strike action while commending members to remain resolute”.
It also warned that “no member of any branch or chapter of the union should be victimised on account of this ongoing strike”.
Perhaps, sensing that some state Chief Judges might have shown disposition to compromise on the full implementation of the constitutional provision of the financial autonomy of the judiciary, the union also said it frowned on “the attitude of some state Chief Judges on their anti-constitutional disposition on the full implementation of the financial autonomy of the judiciary.”
The CJN had, after meeting with the labour minister, Chris Ngige, called on JUSUN to call off its strike.
Mr Muhammad, in a statement by his spokesperson, Ahuraka Isah, said his appeal for an end to the strike was informed by the briefing he received from Mr Ngige, who leads the Federal Government’s negotiation team that engages with the leadership of the union.
While rejecting the various appeals to call off the strike on Wednesday, JUSUN, however, commended the CJN, Mr Ngige, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) as well as the Secretary of the Presidential Implementation Committee of the Financial Autonomy, Ita Enang, “on efforts geared towards the full implementation of the financial autonomy of the judiciary as provided in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).”
“NEC-in-Session commends the National President and all members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the union on the discussions so far and efforts to resolve the ongoing strike action with stakeholders,” the communique added.
Warning to Kaduna, Ebonyi governors
The union also commented on fallout of the lingering industrial crisis in Kaduna State triggered by the threat by the governor, Nasir el-Rufai, to reduce the state’s workforce.
Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai
“NEC-in-Session condemns the anti-labour disposition of his Excellency, the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, and for illegally declaring the National President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, mni, wanted,” the union stated.
Governor Dave Umahi [PHOTO CREDIT: @DavidNwezeUmahi2]It also condemned what it described as “the continued anti-labour disposition of the Ebonyi State governor, Engr. Dave Umahi and therefore demands for immediate payment of the withheld August 2020 salary and release of check off duties accruing to the union”.
The strike, which the judiciary workers embarked upon on April 6 to agitate for the financial autonomy of the judiciary particularly at the state level, is now over six weeks.
Courts at both the state and federal levels across the country have now been shut for 44 days as a result of the strike.
The CJN has met with the leadership of JUSUN on two occasions since the strike started.
At the end the meetings, the union had insisted on going on with the strike until its demand for strict compliance with constitutional provision that prescribes direct funding of state judiciaries and legislatures directly from the federation account.
Despite meeting with the union leaders on different occasions, the labour minister too has not been able to convince them to call of the strike.
JUSUN recently rejected the 36 state governors’ proposed template for the implementation of judiciary’s financial autonomy being demanded by the workers.
The governors, in their proposal, seek the creation of a State Account Allocation Committee (SAAC) to oversee the distribution of funds to the three arms of government at the state level.
But in a communique the union issued after a May 8 meeting of its National Working Committee (NWC), the union insisted on its demand that funds meant for the state judiciaries must be deducted directly from the federation account and paid to the heads of courts through the National Judicial Council (NJC).
It maintained that the provisions of the constitution “cannot be negotiated, doctored, manipulated and therefore must be obeyed”.
As a condition to end its ongoing strike, the union insisted that all the state judiciaries’ funds for October 2020 till May 2021 must be deducted directly from source, the federation account, and paid to the heads of courts through the NJC as prescribed by the constitution.