Johnson Odion Esezoobo Esq
JUSUN Strike: Time To Stop This Disgrace -By Johnson Odion Esezoobo Esq
Again, with great trepidation I have read that JUSUN has agreed to suspend its two months old strike after a reported meeting with the National Judicial Council (NJC) on 8th June 2021. According to the story “…after two or three months of suspension if the Governors fail to do the needful the Union will begin a new strike”.
Accordingly, the workers are reportedly waiting for the Governors to commence direct payment of monthly allocations from the Federation account to the judiciary as agreed in the series of meetings convened by the Labour Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige.
In his exact words, “They (governors) have not started paying (the funds directly to the NJC). We are waiting for the State governors to commence payment so that we can inform our workers”. Again, with great concern, I like to say this is not good news at all. It is regrettable that in a 21st Century Nigeria, a Governor or group of Governors or still group of workers called JUSUN can hold the activity of one or two arms of Government to ransom.
There is something to worry about that the head of the judiciary, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), the Governors, a Minister of the Federal Republic and the workers can do this in the 21st Century. This can only happen in a Country where there is no law or where laws are not respected. It is recalled that following the decision of Jinadu J. of the Federal High Court in Johnson O. Esezoobo v The PRC & Ors (Unreported) Suit No. FHC/L/CS/640 28th July 1995, to the effect that Decree No. 107 of 1993 did not establish a Federal Military Government, as such the Federal Military Government of Abacha was illegal, but that by a subsequent Decree the otherwise illegal Government legalized itself, Fred Agbaje of blessed memory pointed to some confusion in the Nigerian law in an article under captioned, “The Military in search of its Constitution”.
In that same year following the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa & Co through the tribunal process Nelson Mandela’s South Africa described us as irresponsible. And at the Annual General Conference of the NBA at Ibadan Oyo State in 2002, Chief Kanu Agabi SAN, delivering his keynote address as Attorney General of the Federation, stated that “Law has failed in Nigeria”.
Against this background, if the Governors, the Minister and the judiciary workers could hold a vital part of governance down for over two months, and the CJN, as each of the Judges of the States and the Federal Capital Territory allowed it, the question arises as to whether we have improved ourselves. It is sufficient say that over twenty (20) years of return of democratic rule in 1999, Nigeria is yet to come to terms with the true content of her law. And from the level of impunity as further shown in the Governors’ conduct, it cannot proudly be said that the Country yet responsible.
How Did We Get Here?What brought us where we are is genuflection with the Military by blending the law with it and imbibing military attitude. Through this, we grew and developed personalities that held public offices over the institutions of State established for delivery of good governance to the people. We lawyers and Judges drafted and interpreted Decrees to suit the military, whereupon the Head of State became Nigeria and Nigeria the Head of State not considering attendant destruction of social values. Whatever suited the Head of State or Governor, and wanted done became the law. And wherever he wanted us to go became the destination of the whole lot of the people and thus, the national destiny. So it became easy for one man to lead us to the brinks. This became more glaring during Babangida and Abacha regimes.
Thus, Babangida wanted secret trials of alleged coup plotters and against universal law adopted and enshrined in the Constitution, even as was accepted as modified by Decrees, he got it and killed General Vatsa. He dissolved AFRC, put the whole lot of 23 Presidential aspirants in Police detention for alleged breach of his political transition programme e.t.c. just as he annulled June 12, Presidential election. And because we failed to act, it became easy for Abacha like Herod who picked Peter after killing John to pick Obasanjo and Diya & Co for the slaughter until God intervened. Today, it is the boys raised by Babangida and Abacha that have become the Governors and who want the Constitution to genuflect before them.
Our FAILURE Of Responsibility To The Society Unfortunately, over 20 years of return of democracy, we still have not realised that it is our responsibility as lawyers and Judges to enforce responsibility in public life as enshrined in the Constitution through our arguments in, and judgments of, Courts. But because of personal gains, we compromise standards expected of us as lawyers and Judges and play along with politicians and other unprofessional ones in society. In the process, we fret before Governors, Ministers etc, thereby making them assume a position of Masters when they are supposed to be Servants.
If at our age, over 60 years, we cannot talk to Governors but will be hiding under workers’ Unions to press a cause, then we are simply reaping the results of our undue compromise. The law of personality rather than of institutions that we helped to grow and develop for the military is what is haunting us today. We have seen the difference between law of the Institutions and of Personalities in the American System.It was the institutions that saved the Country from the embarrassment President Donald Trump wanted to throw the Country into. Through the law we developed, we have become a nation without wisdom. Nothing we do is right.
The JUSUN strike has further exposed yet another absurdity of our law where Constitutional provisions that are binding and supreme as well as Orders of Courts made thereupon, are now being negotiated with Governors forum, a body that is unknown to the Constitution but is otherwise a secret society by reason of the Code of Conduct for public officers.
Ordinarily, if anybody should be seen negotiating constitutional Provisions and Orders of Court of law created by the same Constitution which enjoins us as citizens to help institutions, including the Court, to perform optimally, it should not be the lawyers and or the Judges.
Therefore, it is totally unacceptable that as head of the Judiciary of Nigeria, as such of judicial governance, the Chief Justice of Nigeria who initially declared support for the JUSUN strike would turn round as Chairman of the National Judicial Council to negotiate a suspension of the strike for two or three months to abide compliance by the Governors with the negotiated provisions of the Constitution. This is scandalous and should not be countenanced.
In a serious Country where Government is real and functional, not a ruse, the President through the Attorney-General of the Federation ought to request the National Judicial Council to issue queries to each of all the heads of the Judiciary including the CJN, President Court of Appeal, President National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Chief Judge Federal High Court, Chief Judge High Court of Federal Capital Territory and each of the Chief Judges of the 36 States of the Federation for allowing the shutdown of Judicial governance of this Country for any reason whatsoever and retire all of them. The dangers inherent in shutting down the judiciary is best imagined against the alleged secret memo by Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN) to the President Buhari to suspend the Constitution and declare a state of emergency.
Thus, anything short of retiring each of the heads the judiciary for this shameful act of allowing judicial governance to be shut down for any reason does not show us as a serious and responsible set of people with the right thinking that can move this Country forward. It is time to stop the show of shame. JUSUN can save us any further embarrassment.
Johnson Odion Esezoobo Esq Can Be Contacted Via -:+234 803 320 0595