By Our Reporter
The ongoing strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) across the country has no doubt left catastrophic damages on law practice and judicial activities in many states of the federation.
The imbrioglio which arose because of the alleged refusal of state governors to domesticate the Executive Order 10 recently signed by President Muhammedu Buhari for the state judiciaries to be autonomous has since seen Judiciary workers and their counterparts in the legal practice rose in unison to nudge the states governor to do the needful with the nationwide industrial action that has lasted over three weeks now and still counting.
While Kwara State is not insulated from the crisis of autonomy rocking the sector with it’s attendants effect, legal practitioners and other workers connected to the ”value chain” in the Judiciary have continued to express divergent views over the matter albeit while counting their costs and the devastating effect it has had on the sector.
For Barrister Kehinde Eleja (SAN), although the strike is unfortunate, it is however desirable to put the judiciary back on track and extricate it from the whims and caprices of the executives for it to properly play it role and continue to adjudicated fearlessly between the government and the governed.
He said, “The strike has virtually paralysed activities for now and the implication is that lawyers are unable to go to court to earn their income. This also translates to the issue of the client not been able to ventilate their grievances in good time and this is aside that fact that one is not calculating its toll on the crimes related matters because suspect will have to be kept at the police station for now putting them at the mercy of the police. Those awaiting trial cannot go to court either and you have a really messy situation.
“The days that have been lost to this strike can never be regained and that is why the governors should do the needful so that we can have a better judiciary that works for all.
“So lawyers have lost income and most of them now are in their offices morning till night without having anywhere to go, you can imagine how frustrated that could be especially when you are not even sure of when the strike will be called off. It has impacted the practice and development of law also. Imagine what will happen to our colleagues who aspire to the rank of SAN not been able to conclude their cases before the court, especially the Supreme Court. And coming closely after the Covid-19 pandemic with it’s attendants lockdown has aggravated the economic conditions of lawyers”, he noted.
He however added that the issue of the automomy for the judiciary is a constitutional matter and not about finding any political solution or round table discussion. “I believe the provision of the Constitution is very clear on this which is that funds for the Judiciary should be properly channelled for onward passage to the state judiciaries. What is expected now is for the state government to summon the courage and ensure their respective state judiciaries are independent, he submitted.
But in his reaction, the immediate past chairman of the Ilorin NBA, Barrister Mohammed Akande said although much has been lost, the parties involved need to come back to the round table to discuss and trash out any grey area that might pose problem in the future once the automomy is fully in operation.
Akande, the first and only civil servant that has chaired the Ilorin Bar, frowned at total autonomy for the Judicial sector and advocated a meeting point for all the issues raised..
According to him, “But while I believe that the Judiciary needs to be independent which will benefit all the parties involved because the governor today might need the court tomorrow, beyond the Order 10, the governors as the no one citizen of their states needs to be consulted.
“Personally, I feel the implementation should be done with caution because the funding and Independence of the Judiciary still has be decided based on the amount of money that accrued to the states. Agreed it could be first line charge but at same time, it could be counter productive or boomerang at the end of the day if the money available after is insufficient to execute any project.
“So all stakeholders have to properly weigh the issue, it doesn’t mean with autonomy of the judiciary, there will now be sufficient funds. There can’t be if what accrued to the state for a particular period is insufficient. What the government used to do was to go and borrow to augment the shortfall whenever there is.
“I can even begin to talk of the impact now. There are several cases that can’t go own now and several court judgments that cannot be executed, same with the family as there are cases of divorce, child custody and issue of inheritance that cannot be decided now. The business of the court is part of our economy sector and when justice’ is delayed like this, there are other economic and family activities that are being hindered which have grave consequences on the polity”, he added.
But for Barrister Sulyman Abaya, a constitutional lawyer and former NBA Ilorin Scribe, the issue is a laughable one and democracy and our system of government is now in a laughable state.
He added that “We all cry and support the granting of the autonomy for the judiciary. Although, i agree that granting it will not solved all the problems bedeviling the Judiciary, it will be a very good starting point. It is better late than never.
“The effect of this strike to me is two. Positive and negative. Positive in the sense that all the judicial workers including the judges will now have a sense of commitment to duty in the sense that they have gotten what issue to them and the otherwise mentality that we are subservient to the whims and caprices will no more be there. There will now be sense of independence because the judges are not in control.
“Negatively, which is anticipatory because of the greediness we have in Nigeria, some unguarded judges might want to circumvent the money and misappropriate it. But that is by the way, we will cross that bridge when we get there, but let us have the autonomy first, the former NBA scribe noted.
But away from the profession argument of the practitioners, court business, especially for those typists and operators of the photocopy shops has seriously nose dived since the workers downtooled.
Speaking to Our Reporter, one of the operators whose shop is inside the Area Court complex, Usman, said the issue has really been a sad one adding that their patronage and customers have reduced drastically from about 140 persons daily to about forty.
‘We don’t even know where to start. Now, we can’t open shops because it’s inside the Area Court and the gate is locked. The typing of affidavit has also reduced because the leadership of the JUSUN has gone to the concerned agencies that discard any form of affidavit from the court but only collect notary public signed by lawyers. So our business of typing, photocopy and affidavit has drastically reduced cutting seriously into our financial situation”, he added.
By Our Reporter