224 views | Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq. | April 13, 2021
The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria-herein after referred to as JUSUN- had on the 6th day of April, 2021, embarked on an indefinite strike action, thereby keeping all courts across the nation under lock-and-key. This action was reported to be necessary as a result of its agitation for the autonomy of the judiciary. This strike action has lasted five (5) days as at 10th day of April, 2021.Some lawyers and some members of the public have expressed their support for this strike action by JUSUN. This paper is also in support of the agitations of the JUSUN for the autonomy of the Judiciary. Nevertheless, this paper appeals for a review of this indefinite strike action in order not to undermine the peace and security of this nation as well as her administration of justice system, hence, this paper considers some of the implications and consequences of the shutting down of courts by JUSUN as a show of its grievances against alleged care-free attitude of the States’ Governors in ensuring autonomy of the Judiciary.
First of all, when courts are shut-down as it is in this strike action, it has the implication of suspending fundamental rights of Nigerian citizens. This is really a great danger! When courts are shut and human rights of citizens and access to courts are suspended, it would encourage more vices and abuse of human rights either by some government’s law enforcement and security agencies or by some individuals in societies. The aftermath of this is that the less privileged and the oppressed and the vulnerable would seek self-help since they could not access a court of law to ventilate their anger and to seek redress in the court of law. Furthermore, due to the existence and free access of right of citizens to access court of law, there has been a drastic reduction in the cases of self-help even by aggrieved landlords. The era of supernatural vengeance and revenge (or to say by recourse to ‘Juju’ or diabolical means) are almost forgone! My fear is that if care is not taken, and by the strike action, citizens lose trust and confidence in the courts as a result of delay in seeking and getting justice, there might be a reduction in complaints made to courts of law and a high number of cases of self-help in the Nigerian civil societies and recourse to African Magics! Also, Nigeria is experiencing a number of cases of prison/jail-break in some States of the Federation and setting police stations on fire (the police stations that are to provide security for the residents of their communities)! Shutting courts is likely to add to these pending cases where citizens are allowed to believe that there is no justice for them in the court of law except unending litigation! Furthermore, the hopes and aspirations for freedom and or justice of some of the inmates and awaiting trial persons standing trials at various courts across the Federation are put to doubt and thereby raising lack of confidence in the administration of justice system! There are many persons standing trials for criminal charges in various courts across the Federation who must have been affected by the JUSUN’s strike. Some have been undergoing trials for some years now with the hope that their court trials would soon end! They would definitely have to seek adjournment at the resumption of courts’ sittings after the end of the strike action. Definitely they are likely to get long adjournment at the resumption of courts. Also, this strike action would definitely cause and or encourage and or justify a long detention of suspects by the law enforcement and security agencies of government (whether on a genuine or non-genuine suspicion of having committed any crime) beyond the constitutionally mandated time of either 24 hours or 48 hours as may be determined by the radius to court. So, courts should not be shut for whatever reasons, strike inclusive!
Furthermore, the strike action would lead to suspension of lawful businesses for litigation lawyers. There is another danger which is sending litigation lawyers out of business and profession! Who would then defend litigants at the end of the day?! Litigants should not be made to lose hopes in the courts as ‘the last hope of the common man’! This JUSUN strike action is really unexpected by litigation lawyers having regard to the hardship incurred during the ongoing lockdown as a result of the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and the #endsars agitation! At the end of the month (notwithstanding the strike action) JUSUN members across the courts would still be paid their salaries and allowances as well as other entitlements but litigation lawyers would get nothing so far they do not work (because they are private legal practitioners specialized in litigation practices)! Should JUSUN not be bothered about the impacts of the strike action on these vulnerable litigation lawyers?! I say ‘YES’! My capital ‘YES’ is on the ground of the principle of ‘espirit de corps’-as solidarity for comrades at the bar! This is also because among those litigation lawyers are human rights activists who are comrades on the path of which JUSUN is! So, the spirit of solidarity preaches ‘brotherhood’, hence, the need for JUSUN to review its indefinite strike action and to call off same at this instance because many litigation lawyers would have been going through un-told financial hardship as a result of the strike action which has lasted almost a week since its commencement! More so, the Nigerian Bar Association is also an association of like-mind as that of JUSUN! So, JUSUN could liaise with the NBA in solidarity and finding lasting solutions to achieving the desire necessitating the strike action! More so too, the strike action would only make innocent citizens and litigation lawyers to suffer and not the executives who JUSUN has intended by its strike action!
Also, all the above are apart from the millions and or billions of currencies that litigants would have lost especially those in the commercial sectors that require courts of law for one thing or the other!
Furthermore and on a final note, when courts are shut, it amounts to invitation of anarchy and lawlessness in Nigeria! The approach to destruction ‘if I cannot get what I desire, let everything be destroyed!’ pays no one including the JUSUN and its members! Where would we all migrate to where we destroy our own country and or her administration of justice for injustice to pervade the entire nation?! Nowhere! Therefore, JUSUN must use wisdom in achieving its end-desires! We as lawyers (especially those of us as litigation lawyers and human rights activists) are indeed in support of JUSUN’s cause for autonomy for the judiciary! Nevertheless, we humbly call on JUSUN to review its modes of operation towards achieving its desired- goal by its strike action (if not to halt and or call-off the strike action) with immediate effect in the interest of justice and not destroying the Nigeria’s administration of justice system caused by the lack of interest of the States’ Governors in complying with and ensuring autonomy of the judiciary! I have also observed that the Federal Judiciary ought not to be affected by the strike action since the President of the Federation has always maintained autonomy of the Judiciary!
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!