Sat. Oct 23rd, 2021

JUSUN Strike: ‘The Nigerian Constitution And The Manuals Of Governance’

Chief Malcolm Emokiniovo Omirhobo Esq

JUSUN Strike: ‘The Nigerian  Constitution And The Manuals Of Governance’ By Chief Malcolm Emokiniovo Omirhobo Esq

Let me start by stating that I am one  hundred and ten percent in support  of the financial independence of the Nigerian judiciary because of its  enormous importance and significance to the administration of justice, the rule of law and our nacesent democracy.  

I am also in full support of the struggle for the actualisation of the financial independence of the Nigerian judiciary  provided it’s approach is civil, lawful and  constitutional. And for the records , I am in support of the extant Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), strike but I vehemently oppose its modus operandi. 

The grouse of JUSUN for which it has unlawfully shut down the entire judicial system since on the  6th day of April 2021, is that the State Governments are  in violation of “Sections 81 (3) and 121 (3) of the Constitution of Nigeria which  grants financial autonomy to Federal and State Judiciaries which  have been   confirmed by the  courts in the following cases:: Judiciary Staff Union of  Nigeria Vs National Judiciary Council & Governors of The 36 States in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/667/13; Olisa Agbakoba Vs FG, the NJC & National Assembly, Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/63/2013; and Olisa Agbakoba Vs AG, Ekiti State & 2 Others, Suit No. NAD/56/2013.

Granted that the 36 State Governors are in violation of the Constitution. Granted  that they are also contemptuous of the judgements of the court, I dare say, that does not give JUSUN the licence to violate the constitution and to defile the sanctity of the courts. It is incongruous for JUSUN, to on one hand profess to defend the Constitution and on the other hand flagrantly violate it. 
 I am shocked that the stakeholders of the Nigerian judicial system have    failed, refused and/or neglected to tell members of JUSUN that while striking they do not have the right to obstruct other Nigerian citizens from going about their lawful activities or violate their  rights, whereas the rights of members of JUSUN ends where that of other Nigerian citizens begins. 

I am shocked that the stakeholders of the Nigerian judicial system have failed, refused and or neglected to tell JUSUN that they are violating the Nigerian Constitution in too many ways but suffice to mention a few herein under:(1)  Many Nigerians whom the constitution presumes to be innocent are today languishing in cells and jails through out Nigeria  because they cannot get bail? (2) Many Nigerians needs access to the court to ventilate their grievances instead of taking the laws into their hands or resorting to self help. (3) Many Nigerians needs access to to the court for the protection of their  lives and properties. (4) Many Nigerians needs access to the courts to make a living. (5)Many Nigerians needs access to the court to enforce their fundamental rights. (6) Many Nigerians needs access to court to swear affidavit for several reasons like retriving their lost SIM cards, compilation of traveling documents or  for record purposes as a condition to do several things. (7) Many Nigerians needs access to court to challenge the Governments both at the federal and state levels  via public interest litigation. (8) Many Nigerians needs access to the court to process their letters of administration or wills at the various probate registry. (9) The Nigerian police needs access to the court to enforce the law. (10) The judges needs access to the court to administer justice.

The list of why the JUSUN must immediately call off the strike and reopen the courts is endless but let me just point out here that JUSUN must know that the Nigerian Court is the turf of all Nigerian citizens and not  exclusively theirs and therefore, they  have no locus to put it under lock and key. There are Nigerians who may want to use the library in the court’s premises, judges who may want to use their Chambers and as flimsy as it may sound Nigerians who  may want to visit the court for excursion  or sight seeing. The stakeholders of the Nigerian judiciary must tell JUSUN that the disadvantages of their action by far outweighs what ever benefits  it believes it wants to achieve by this  industrial action.

As far as I am concerned, the strike defiles law, commonsense and logic because it is  absurd for JUSUN to shut down the Federal High Courts nation wide which has started the implementation  of Financial Autonomy for the Judiciary as shown by the  superfluous Executive Order 10 of 2020 of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and against the wise counsel and plea of the  Nigerian Bar Association.

Hitherto, one of the major factors inhibiting the execution of the judgment of the court for the implementation of the financial independence of the Nigerian judiciary is the refusal of the Nigeria Police which is an agency of the Federal Government under the control of the President of Nigeria to make her  input in the execution of the judgement of the Court against the State and Federal Governments. But now with the  new Federal Government disposition towards the actualisation of the financial independence of the Nigerian judiciary this impediment have been removed. But I am suprise that JUSUN has refused to latch onto this opening whereas the State Governments are now critically exposed to the extent that it is only the State Governors  that have  immunity while  their commissioners of finance, accountant generals and attorney general’s do not. My thinking here is that JUSUN is  not putting on her thinking cap and have choose the short cut of strike which has resulted in  the  punishment of  the entire country for the sins of thirty six thick skinned, power drunken rascals. 

It is sad that JUSUN has refused to realise that the issue here is a  constitutional one that requires constitutional solution. The point which JUSUN is  missing here and must focus on is how the manual of governance and the Nigerian constitution expects us  to handle a governor who is in breach of the constitution  and who is also  contemptuous of the order or judgement of a court  bearing in mind his status of immunity  within the confines of the law?

The earlier JUSUN understands that the grant of immunity of office to the State  Governors from civil or criminal proceedings and arrest or imprisonment through out the tenure of their office is constitutional as per the provisions of  section 308 of the Nigerian constitution and that the only anti dote to the abuse of immunity of office by a Governor is another constitutional means called impeachment as per the provisions of the section 188 of the Nigerian constitution.

The issue of judicial autonomy should be the concern of every well meaning Nigeria citizen. Starting with the  judges, lawyers and members of the public. The judges must be upright and up and doing. They must stop indulging the Executive and their agencies. They must make the right pronouncements without fear or favour when it matters and at the right time so that they can earn their respect from the other arms  of government. 

Let Nigerians read, see or  hear that a court of law has cited the Minister or Commissioner of Finance, the Accountant-General or  the Attorney-General either at the State or Federal level for contempt of court. Does the names Kutugi, Obaseki, Uwaifo, Ovie Whisky, Odigbe, Kayode Esho, Oguntade, Oputa, Pat Acholonu, Karibi White, Niki Tobi, etc  ring a bell ? These were great men of the Nigerian judiciary that stood tall during the Military era in Nigeria. Please do well to read their judgements. They were the ones that made Gani Fawehinmi of blessed memory shine like a million stars. Their sound judgement on public interest litigation helped  develop our jurisprudence and  embroaden our liberty which we  enjoy today.  

Our present judges must give preference to public interest cases, they must stop dodging or shying away from them  or deliberately allowing them to be overtaken by events and thereby rendering  them nugatory or  academic exercise. 

As for the Nigerian lawyers, we must contribute our own quota in the struggle for the actualisation of the financial  autonomy of the Nigerian judiciary by defending the Nigerian constitution at the slightest breach by other organs of government, all levels of governments and their agencies. As lawyers we must stop being selfish and self centered pursuing our briefs and the Rank of SAN without giving some of our  time and energy to our society. As learned minds,  we must at all times endeavour to educate the public on  the dictates of the constitution and governance.

On the part of the Nigerian public with whom the ultimate power resides  in but have failed, refused and or neglected  to exercise it, I say they must avoid short cut and cosmetic approach to things. They must at all times be prepared to persevere and go through the due process of law. 

In the extant JUSUN strike, JUSUN is suppose to enlightened members of the public through series of write ups, seminars, webinars, symposiums, so that the public can be well informed and  organised to stage protests and strikes at their various State Government Houses and State House of Assemblies, lobby their representatives and in the worst case scenario demand their  representatives at the pain of recall to impeach their governors for  breach of the constitution and disregard for  the rule of law and the  administration of justice.

Sure, JUSUN have the right to pursue a policy of financial Independence of the courts guaranteed by the constitution and affirmed by three decisions of superior courts of Nigeria as opined by my learned senior Olisa Agbkoba SAN  but I dare say that JUSUN do not have the right or mandate of Nigerians to shut down the entire Nigerian judicial system.

My opinion may be unpopular but I have no regrets and to tell you what even though JUSUN succeeds with this approach my position will not change as long as it is outside the confines of the constitution and manuals of governance.

Chief Malcolm Emokiniovo Omirhobo Esq Can Be Reached Via -:+234 803 307 2453