The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Thursday expressed shocked over the federal government’s “silence” on the judiciary workers’ strike that has grounded courts nationwide since Tuesday.
The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) on Tuesday embarked on the nationwide industrial action to press home their demand for financial autonomy for the judicial arm of government.
PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported that the NBA and JUSUN delegates met on Thursday at the national secretariat of the association of Nigerian lawyers to brainstorm on ways of resolving the industrial dispute.
Our reporter, who attended a press briefing held by the parties after the meeting, reported that the National Treasurer of JUSUN, Jimoh Musa, who led the union’s delegation, said the strike would remain.
On his part, the NBA’s 1st Vice President, John Aikpokpo-Martins, who led the association’s delegation and chaired the meeting with JUSUN officers, lamented the seeming indifference of the federal government to the shutdown of court activities across Nigeria since Tuesday.
He said, “It is very unfortunate that the federal government has not responded to the striking judiciary workers.
“The NBA is shocked that JUSUN called for a strike, they gave a notice of the strike, then the strike commenced on Tuesday, and today is Thursday, there is no contact form the Federal Government to JUSUN.
“We are not happy with that at all. It shows that there is no serious effort being put in place to ensure that the courts come back to life.
“The federal government ought to have had an interface with the striking judiciary workers.
“So, the country’s judiciary is shut down and the federal government is not saying anything? It’s sad.”
He noted that no country could function when the judicial arm of government was on a shutdown.
NBA to meet CJN, governors
He restated NBA’s commitment to the issues that led to the strike, adding that the umbrella body of lawyers would meet with the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) as well as the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) leadership with a view to resolving the strike.
“The state governors have every duty to ensure that the provisions of the constitution are obeyed in accordance with the oath they took. So, it is not a negotiable issue at all.
“We hope this will be the last fight to ensure that the judiciary is not only autonomous, but it’s truly independent,” Mr. Aikpokpo-Martin said.
After emerging from a meeting that lasted over one hour, the leader of the JUSUN delegation, Mr Musa, insisted that the strike would continue until the union’s demands were met.
Mr Jimoh told journalists at the NBA House in Abuja that the essence of the meeting was to re-strategize with a view to actualizing the cardinal objective of the strike.
When asked if the union would suspend the strike pending negotiations with relevant stakeholders like the NBA and the NGF, Mr. Jimo said, “As it stands now, the strike continues.”
“The strike continues until we meet, discuss and achieve our demands, then we will end the industrial action,” he added.
FG keeps mum, Malami’s shuns PREMIUM TIMES’ enquiry
No representative of either the federal or state governments has made any public statement concerning the strike since Tuesday.
But while Mr Musa confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES earlier on Thursday that the NGF had reached out to JUSUN, and that a meeting with the forum of Nigerian governors was being planned, he said nothing had been heard from the federal government.
Meanwhile, efforts by PREMIUM TIMES reporter to get the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to respond to the strike proved abortive on Tuesday.
The minister, who was addressing a press conference on an earlier report by this newspaper, suddenly became very angry when our reporter asked him about the strike during question time.
He said, “Considering that the questions came from PREMIUM TIMES on the basis of which this press briefing is being held this afternoon to respond to some mischievous and perfidious reports; I would not like to accord PREMIUM TIMES an opportunity to distract this press conference.
“I would rather give them the final opportunity if they intend to ask questions, to restrict themselves to the subject matter of the press conference, while I give my commitment to engage with him (the PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter) outside in terms of responding to these questions that are not in any way directly linked to the subject matter of this event.
“Though I still agree that you (PREMIUM TIMES) are still entitled to briefed as far as your questions are concerned,”Mr. Malami said.
However, when our reporter sought to have an interview with the minister as he had suggested, Mr Malami’s spokesperson, Umar Gwandu, said he would rather make documents available which he never did.