The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria on Tuesday in Abuja locked out staff members, lawyers, litigants and the general public from courts.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that members of the union locked the Federal High Court premises in Maitama, Wuse Zone Six Chief Magistrates’ Court, and FCT High Courts as early as 6:30am on Tuesday to ensure that no one entered the court premises.
A big padlock was used to lock the entrance to the court from the outside to ensure that no one gained access.
Members of the union were seen sitting in front of the court entrance.
They however refused to speak to NAN and only said: “We are on strike.”
Litigants trying to gain entrance were turned away, while security personnel attached to the court were seen loitering around.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that JUSUN said the strike was to press home their demand for the financial autonomy of the judiciary.
A statement by JUSUN President, Marwan Adamu, said all courts and other departments would be shut until and unless the government does the needful.
It was also observed that lawyers and litigants came into the court premises in the hope that judicial activities will go on as usual.
Apeh Wilson, a litigant, said he traveled from his hometown in Benue State and got to Abuja on Monday at about 11:30pm in order to be in court on Tuesday.
Wilson said: “If I had heard anything about the strike, I would have remained in my hometown until weekend as I left an important family event yesterday afternoon to travel back to Abuja and got in very late.
“I had to do all that because I was slated to give evidence before the court today.
“Now all that stress for nothing as my lawyer did not inform me about the strike.
“However, I do not blame people that believe their demand will be met through strike.”
A counsel, Chinwe Aneke, said she was aware of the strike, but that her Principal at the office instructed her to stop over at the court to ensure that proceeding was not going on in order to avoid them missing out.
Aneke further said they felt lower courts would not be affected by the strike.
Similar situation was also observed at the Life Camp Magistrates’ Court as the premises looked deserted except for few vendors by the entrance gate.
A security personnel by the gate said earlier in the day, there were some form of activities as lawyers and litigants came to make enquiries or confirm about the strike.
Also the Nigerian Bar Association through its President, Olumide Akpata, lamented the failure of the government to adhere the provisions of the constitution.
Akpata said the NBA is deeply worried that despite the clear provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as altered), which consecrates the autonomy of the Judiciary, nothing had been done to enforce it.
He said: “A situation where the Judiciary literally begs for its resources from the Executive arm as is currently the case across several States cannot guarantee its independence and constitutes an affront to the Constitution and the Rule of Law.
“The NBA is equally aware of the Executive Order No. 10 signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on the May 20, 2020.
“To a large extent, it sought to address this constitutional imbroglio by treating the funds due to the State Judiciaries as a first line charge, and requiring that the funds be paid directly to the Heads of Court concerned.
“However, as commendable and laudable as the proposed strike action may be, the NBA is concerned about its timing and the potentially devastating consequences it would pose for justice administration in the country.”
For the avoidance of doubt, Akpata said the NBA, as a leading stakeholder in the justice sector, and in keeping with its motto of promoting the Rule of Law is in support of the demands of JUSUN, and has been a constant voice of advocacy towards enthroning judicial autonomy.
NAN reports that the Executive Order No. 10 of 2020 made it mandatory for all states to include the allocations of both the legislature and the judiciary in the first-line charge of their budgets.
The order also mandates the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct from source amount due to the state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocation to each state for states that refuse to grant such autonomy.