The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) said on Monday that its members would continue to close down courts nationwide unless and until the implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary as stipulated by the constitution.
The union made this known on Monday evening despite an appeal by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, to the leadership of JUSUN to call off the strike.
After a meeting between the Federal Government and the union leadership on Monday, JUSUN said the strike would continue until implementation of financial autonomy for judiciary, warning that the courts would remain under lock and key across the country until financial autonomy of the judicial is guarantee and implementation begin across all the states of the federation.
President of JUSUN, Marwan Mustapha, who was represented by the Treasurer of the union, Jimoh Alonge, insisted that the strike would continue until the constitutional provision was adhered to.
The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and the Body of Judges are also in support of JUSUN position.
Senator Ngige on behalf of the Federal Government appealed to JUSUN to suspend the nationwide industrial action, which he said has paralysed activities in courts across the country.
Ngige reminded the judiciary workers that like doctors and nurses, they were on essential duties and should not go on strike.
According to Ngige, the country cannot make progress economically and socially when the laws of the country are not enforced.
He said: “You are important people and that is why we waited to see if there could be an in-house conciliation with the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) but since progress was not made, we decided to exercise our mandate here as Ministry of Labour and Employment.
“Grant us peace and we are going to handle this matter in a way that doesn’t lose sight of what you are pursuing. I will do a report on this meeting and forward to the President when he returns.
“I will make a commitment here. The Executive Order 10 and its application granting autonomy to the judiciary which is topmost on your demand will be tackled because it is a constitutional issue. Even governors owe their offices to the constitution. You don’t pick and choose what to obey. However, we must handle this matter with maturity and utmost patriotism.”
He urged the striking judicial workers to resume work so that when the judicial officers return from Easter holidays, they would not meet the strike.
However, Marwan said they were guided by the constitution of the country in their action, stressing that democracy has to thrive on the Rule of Law.
Marwan said: “The Federal Republic of Nigeria is a federation and it is guided by a constitution. However, we observed that the particular provision of the constitution that grants financial autonomy to the judiciary has never been obeyed as much as it should be, particularly Section 21(3) and Section 81(3).
“Having agitated for so long for the needful to be done and it is not done, we went to court and got a judgment before 2014. We are patient. We are not lawless people because we work in a sector where the Rule of Law guides our operation. But to our amazement since we went on strike in 2015, the government seems not to hear us until now.”
Also at the meeting were the representatives of the Solicitor General of Nigeria, the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Eta Enang.
The meeting agreed to reconvene on Thursday.