By Sylvester Udemezue (udems)

As is usual in Nigeria, we all woke up on April 04, 2021 to hear that JUSUN (the umbrella union of judiciary workers in Nigeria) had declared an indefinite strike to press home some demands, including but not limited to judicial autonomy. To this end, all courts in Nigeria, from the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the Federal High Court, the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, etc, were shut down from the next working day, April 06, 2021. This commentary is my pensive response to the development which is only one too many in a country wherein administration of justice has taken the back seat leading the common man (out of frustration and abject loss of confidence in the judicial system) oftentimes looking elsewhere to get “justice”. There may come a time when one gets rendered incapacitated against all who have held and kept us down and backward, but there should never be a time one gives up in, at least, raising one`s voice in protest.

Mr Mike Ayodele, a respected learned colleague, is among some who saw the manuscript of this short commentary. He had quickly asked, “Whose fault and who is to blame? Why is it that everything good [that will work] for the benefit of the common man is difficult to be done in Nigeria”? Mr Ayodele`s question, apart from being apt in the circumstances, is a sad reminder of the appalling situation we have found ourselves in a country so blessed with abundant material and human resources, yet continually wallowing in abject lack, awkwardness, darkness and backwardness, in almost every aspect of its life. Anyway, whose fault this is or whether any court-shutdown is justified or not, is not the material issue now; the truth remains that continual shutdown of courts is tantamount to steady and effective shutdown of access to justice! And when and where there’s no justice, self-help and chaos prevail.

There are, meanwhile, no fewer than 14 (fourteen) reasons usually offered by leaders, actors and or stakeholders, for their intolerably continual and agonizingly rampant shutdown of courts of law in Nigerian. Please, take a quick look with me, dear learned friend:

1) Shutdown for swearing-in of newly appointed judicial officers. One day;
2) Shutdown for commissioning of new court complexes. One day.
3) Shutdown for (Lagos) settlement week. About One week.
4) Shutdown for Governor’s visit. One day.
5) Shutdown for COVID-19 Lockdown. Indefinite!
6) Shutdown to observe social distancing as part of COVID-19 curtailment measures. Indefinite!
7) Shutdown for Easter Vacation — About two weeks.
8) Shutdown for Christmas and Ileya vacation. About Two weeks.
9) Shutdown for Long vacation — the mother of all shutdowns. About two months.
10) Shutdown for Strikes by JUSUN, NLC, etc. Rampant and Indefinite!
11) Shutdown for “activities and ceremonies marking commencement of new Legal year.” About One week.
12) Shutdown for judges’ annual conference — About one week.
13) Shutdowns and Courts-Not-Sitting over all sorts of other frolicking, distractions and unnecessary miscellaneous events and excuses that needlessly take the judges’ time away from serious adjudication business for which there were employed and being handsomely remunerated. Rampant, Habitual, Almost Irremediable!
14) Shutdown over #EndSARS or suchlike imbroglio and their up-shorts. Indefinite!

Now, although some (but only some) of these shutdowns are presented as justified, justifiable, please I suggest we subtract all these (shutdown) days, weeks and months from the twelve months that make up one calendar year, and then tell us what time/days we have left to attend to, and determine the tens and hundreds of thousands of suits/cases pending in the various courts all over Nigeria. Cases filed as far back as 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 up to 2015, 2016, 2017, etc, are still pending in the various Courts! How to speedy up hearing in order to de-congest the courts and thereby instill or regain people’s confidence in the administration of justice, is (unfortunately) not our priority. We are sure doing well in Nigeria and in the Nigerian justice sector. Good luck us all. Like they say of aluta, permit me to say, Shutdown Continua! (Let the shutdown continue). ▪️Meanwhile, please see: ”How Leaders of Nigeria’s Judiciary Dissipate Valuable Time On Irrelevancies To The Detriment of Effective, Efficient Administration of Justice (part 1)” by Sylvester Udemezue (published on TheNigerialawyer.com on May 16, 2021.

Respectfully,
Sylvester udemezue (udems).
08109024556.
udemsyl@gmail.com.
06/April/2021

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