214 views | Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq. | April 16, 2021
The compelled indefinite strike action by the Judiciary’s Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) has been over a week now and there seems no result at suspending the strike action despite all appeals by government’s authorities, the Nigerian Bar Association and members of the public to suspend its strike action, though, all are in its support for the autonomy of the judiciary. Nevertheless, it is clear that JUSUN has no allegation of violation of the autonomy mantra against the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Federal Courts as well as courts of the FCT-Abuja, but only chose to apply its strike orders against those federal courts in an alleged solidarity for its goal! It is also clear that the actual defendants (in civil) or suspects (in criminal) to JUSUN’s claim/allegations are the Governors of some States of the Federation (not even all the States)! That is why since the Federal Courts are not culpable to the allegation of the autonomy of the judiciary and since despite the lawful passionate intervention of various authorities into this matter and appeals for JUSUN to suspend its strike action against those federal courts but JUSUN has remained adamant, without any lawful and or justifiable reason, this paper is of the firm legal submission that the various law enforcement agencies of government are justified in law and equity to ensure that those Federal Courts such as: the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the Court of Appeal of Nigeria, the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, the Federal High Court of Nigeria, the High Court of FCY-Abuja, the Sharia and the Customary Courts of Appeal of FCT-Abuja, all other courts (Superior and inferior records) that have federal status are unlocked and to give free access to the users of those courts, and this does not require anu court’s order as the law creating those law enforcement and security agencies of government already empower them to so act, hence, this paper!
It is belated in my humble view, to debate on whether the law enforcement agencies of government have the powers to ensure that all federal courts and other courts with federal status are unlocked and to give access to the users of those courts to carry out their normal activities for which those courts have been established! Certainly in my humble view, those law enforcement agencies of government have such powers legally both constitutionally and in equity! More so, since the JUSUN has no allegation of violating the autonomy of the judiciary against the Federal Government and its courts, it them means that JUSUN cannot and is not justified legally and in equity to lock down those federal courts and to compel its members who are employees of those courts not to resume their official duties for which they are paid monthly salaries and allowances, and other entitlements! JUSUN in my humble view cannot constitute itself into the law and override the extant provisions of the Constitution that is the foundation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria! Nigeria is a Federal Republic andoperates the democratic principles of ‘Federalism’and a ‘Republic’ where all courts and the States and the Federation have their various powers shared and or distributed by the Constitution! Therefore, it would be unconstitutional for JUSUN to carry its solidarity to those Federal courts unjustifiably! It is also against public policy for JUSUN to lock Federal Courts despite its negative consequences on the national progress! Perhaps JUSUN was not properly advised legally by its legal team (if JUSUN has any) as to the illegality of locking Federal courts for the alleged non-compliance with autonomy of the judiciary by some State governments! The illegal and unlawful lockdown of federal courts by the JUSUN despite all interventions by the Federal government’s authorities that JUSUN should suspend its indefinite strike action against those federal courts but all to no avail, justifies the immediate intervention of government’s law enforcement agencies and its security agencies to unlock those courts and to give access to the users of those courts in the interest of justice!
Furthermore, the employers of those employees of those courts have the legal justification and authority as well as powers too to invoke various disciplinary regulations as applicable to its labour laws against any of its or their employees that refuses to resume his official duties with immediate effect! We cannot continue to allow JUSUN to throw the whole nation into anarchy and lawlessness that would even defeat the just cause of the democracy and the constitution as there would be no one talking about the autonomy or no autonomy of the judiciary where Nigeria is in a state of anarchy, disorderliness and lawlessness, God forbid! Therefore, in my humble legal submission, it is belated for the government to unlock the federal courts and give access to the users of those courts and ensure normal official activities in the interest of justice! More so, the administration of justice system is already suffering innocently for the illegal and unlawful acts of the JUSUN and its members, the law enforcement agencies and security agencies of government having been empowered to ensure a full force of law and order and to restrain any breach of same and are therefore in law and equity justified to intervene in this circumstance, even though the intervention is long belated as the strike action ought not to even affect those federal courts in the first instance as the FederalGovernment has indulged the JUSUN enough till this time while innocent litigants and the administration of justice system suffers! I understand that JUSUN being a pressure group has no concern for the interest of the nation for justice to prevail but to selfishly seek its objective of the strike, but it must understand that it is unconstitutional, illegal, unlawful, null and void ab initio for it to hold those federal courts to ransom for the alleged wrong it alleges against some of the States of the Federation! Also, such illegal application of the strike action to the Federal Courts has no place in the democratic federalism which Nigeria practices and recognised by the Constitution of Nigeria! Also, ‘solidarity’ is not law but private principle and convention devised by JUSUN (which does not supersede the law) hence, it lacks the backing of the law in this instance as it concerns the federal courts in this instance as something cannot be placed on nothing for the something to stand! The something would definitely collapse!
Therefore, I humbly call on the government, the Nigerian Bar Association, the general public and human rights activists to prevail upon JUSUN by ensuring that this strike action is compelled to a halt against federal courts in the interest of justice! Also, I must state that I am in total support with JUSUN for championing the autonomy of the judiciary against those States of the Federation that have refused to comply with same! Nevertheless, since the Federal Government has always been in compliance of the autonomy of the judiciary, I see no reason why JUSUN should lock Federal courts and refuse its members from their official duties! Therefore, ‘solidarity’ must definitely be in line with the law as the law would always prevail without fear or favour! Also, I must state that JUSUN should review its tool of compulsion of its goals! Strike action of locking courts (regardless of whether it is against the Federal or State Government) is definitely not in any way a good tool in the interest of justice, as ‘justice delayed, amounts to justice denied’!
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!