Days after The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) embarked on indefinite strike, the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) started a protest strike action over the non-implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary.
Across the country, court activities are increasingly getting paralyzed as the strike action takes effect.
From Lagos to Kano, judicial workers have been forced to halt court processes, and the Supreme Court has been shut down.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) said the planned strike by JUSUN, which is as a result of the judicial arm of government literally begging for what belongs to it, will have a devastating effect on the country’s judicial process, and also interfere with the independence of the judiciary.
NBA President, Mr Olumide Akpata, said despite the clear constitutional provisions which consecrates the autonomy of the Judiciary, the executive arm of government, particularly at the state level, has customarily refused to comply with the provisions of the Constitution
‘‘The NBA is deeply worried that despite the clear provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as altered) which consecrate the autonomy of the Judiciary, the Executive arm of Government, particularly at the State level, has customarily refused to comply with the provisions of the Constitution, which are targeted at safeguarding the independence of the Judiciary.
‘‘The NBA is aware of the judgment of the Federal High Court of 13th January 2014 which unequivocally confirmed the autonomy of the Judiciary in line with the spirit and letters of the Constitution. While that judgment was followed by a Memorandum of Understanding between JUSUN and relevant stakeholders under which parties agreed to conscientiously give effect to the judgement of the Court, that has not been the case for seven years after the landmark judgment. This situation does not augur well for our constitutional democracy, as it suggests that members of the Executive arm of Government, who swore to uphold the principles of the Constitution, can flout it, with impunity.
‘’The Judiciary is an equal arm of Government relative to the Executive and the Legislature, and its independence is fundamental to the effective discharge of its mandate under the Constitution. 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,’’ Akpata said.
But that’s just part of a system that the most populous black nation in the world has become famous for. In Nigeria, industrial action is a common feature that the government does not want to reckon with, and at the same time, would not take the necessary steps to stop from frequently happening.
It was in December that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) called off its ‘sequel’ industrial action that paralyzed academic activities in the universities for nine months. Last month, the academic body threatened to resume where it stopped due to non-payment of salaries and alleged victimization of its members.
On Tuesday, Anderson Ezeibe, president of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) announced that the union has commenced an indefinite strike.
ASUP said part of the reasons for the strike is the non-implementation of NEEDS Assessment report of 2014 in the sector nor release of any revitalization fund to the sector despite assurances since 2017.
And there is also non-reconstitution of governing councils in Federal Polytechnics and many state-owned institutions which has led to the disruption of governance and administrative processes in the institutions since May 2020.
These, according to the union, undermined the renegotiation of the union’s 2010 agreement with the government as such was unilaterally suspended by the government for over 2 years.
Over the years, Nigerians have come in terms with strike actions in the health and educational sectors. Therefore, most are not surprised that doctors embarked on strike in the face of the global health crisis, but there is a different sentiment with JUSUN strike.
Although there had been cases of some state judiciary workers going on strike in the past, it had never been on par with academic and health sectors’, which happen always at the national level with devastating impacts.
Nigerian patients are left to die in various hospitals as medical professionals down tools, students spend more years in schools as academic activities get put on hold periodically.
NARD president, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, said on Tuesday that the government has only met one out of its 13 demands, and the association has not had any invite from the ministry of labor, that means, the strike continues.
With president Buhari in London on medical vacation, it is believed that the striking doctors will have to watch more Nigerians with medical needs die.
Okhuaihesuyi said “as a leader of the national association of residents doctors, a mandate has been given to me to continue the strike until the 13 demands are met. So the strike continues as it stands.”
The Minister for Labor, Dr. Chris Ngige said the government may implement “no-work no-pay” labor rule to force the doctors to return to work.
It is a faceoff, and like always, those who have been, without choice trapped in the system, will bear the brunt.
Patients will die, students will watch their academic future waste away. And as for the judiciary, Akpata said there will be serious consequences.
‘’Across the country, the Courts are trying to play catch-up for lost time, and it would be catastrophic for the administration of justice for the Courts to be shut down again. This is not to mention the adverse economic consequences for families and lawyers alike, who earn a living in one way or the other, by providing various support services to the Court system’’, he said.