Negotiations between governors of the 36 states and the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria over the union’s demand for the financial autonomy of the judiciary at the state level may have hit a brick wall as the union gears up for another long-drawn battle with governors, Punch reports.

JUSUN had in April embarked on a nationwide strike that lasted over two months in its push for the implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary in the 36 states.

For the entire two months, courts were shut nationwide and the country’s justice system was crippled, with detainees in prison or police custody, as well as businesses involved in legal disputes, bearing direct brunt of the industrial action.

Eventually, the National Executive Committee of JUSUN, on June 9, 2021, announced the suspension of the strike, citing the intervention of the National Judicial Council and other stakeholders for the decision.

The suspension of the strike was communicated through a communiqué issued after an emergency meeting of JUSUN’s NEC in Abuja.

President Muhammadu Buhari had last year signed Executive Order 10 for the enforcement of the constitutional provision of financial autonomy for judiciary at the state level.

But the 36 state governors kicked against the Executive Order.

However, in May, the governors and JUSUN signed a Memorandum of Action for the full implementation of financial autonomy.

The parties agreed in the MoA that “respective states shall credit the accounts of each state House of Assembly and each state judiciary with the pro-rata amount due to each of the two arms of government under the 2021 Appropriation for each state.”

As of June 9 when JUSUN suspended its strike, the MoA had yet to be implemented.

Sunday PUNCH learnt that about five months after the strike was suspended, many governors have yet to grant full financial to the judiciary in their states.

The National Treasurer of JUSUN, Jimoh Musa, told this newspaper that 92 per cent of the states have refused to honour the MoA.

He said, “I will say 92 per cent of the states are not complying. You will find that there are one or two states that are friendly with the judiciary but that is not enough to say that they are complying with the constitutional provisions of this country.”

Musa said JUSUN was disappointment that after the suspension of the strike in June following the intervention of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammed, the “government have turned the whole issue into political and playful issues.”

The JUSUN treasurer said, “They have not done anything about it, rather some states will just tell you that they have passed a law; the governor has not assented to it and up till this moment nothing had happened and we are keenly watching them because there is a committee put in place by the NJC that is going round to make sure that this thing is (pushed) behind us. So, we are still expecting the committee to come out with their report.”

Musa was JUSUN would have no other option but to go back on strike if the governors continued to default, adding that the next strike the timing of the next strike would be strategic in a way that will frustrate hearing of pre-election cases in court ahead of the 2023 general elections.

He noted that courts across the country usually witness a flurry of political lawsuits, arising from disputes from political parties’ conventions, congresses and primary elections.

He noted that JUSUN’s next strike would be planned to put politicians under pressure because of the fact that election-related cases must, by the provision of the constitution, be dealt with and resolved in three months.

Musa said, “They have to understand that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man and it should be respected because they need us more next year and we will be there, waiting for them; we will hold them to ransom.

“When I say they need us more, that means the judiciary is the last hope of the common man and next year will be their political time when they will be running up and down, wanting the courts to do their biddings. I don’t think the courts will be there for them. We are waiting for them seriously.”

Musa said of all the demands of JUSUN, financial autonomy was the most important demand because “money controls everything.”

He said, “When you don’t give the judiciary the free hand to operate financially, that means there is no autonomy in the state. You will go to states and you will find out that the Commissioner for Finance of the state controls the salary of the judiciary; they determine what comes to the judiciary, that is not autonomy at all. We are patiently respecting the highest organ, the CJN of this country and it has set up a committee headed by the Emir of Lafia, who is tirelessly working on the matter, trying to visit the governors to make sure they do the needful.

“But peradventure, if at the end of this nothing comes up, we cannot guarantee what will happen because we are planning to meet latest in the first quarter of next year, January or February.”

JUSUN contended that the Accountant-General of the Federation ought to have acted within the law by deducting from source, money meant for the judiciary and hand it over to the National Judicial Council for onward delivery to the head of courts in the states.

Written By Obioma Ezenwobodo Esq

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