By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has described the planned strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), as devastating, saying it will have adverse effect on judicial process in the country.
The President of the association, Mr. Olumide Akpata, expressed worry over the planned industrial action.
The association said 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,
The NBA said a situation where the judicial arm of government literally beg for what belongs to it cannot guarantee independent of the judiciary.
Mr 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 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, andconstitutes an affront to the Constitution and the Rule of Law.’’
The association further said 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, particularly coming on the heels of prolonged lull in judicial activities owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and the enforced lockdowns.
‘’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.