The nationwide strike embarked upon by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) yesterday stalled the delivery of a judgment seeking reinstatement of the suspended president of the Court of Appeal (PCA), Justice Isa Salami.
JUSUN yesterday began an industrial action to press the federal government to implement the 2009 agreement in which federal judiciary staff's salary was increased from N17, 000 to N37,000
Consequently, Justice Adamu Bello of the Federal High Court in Maitama, Abuja, could not sit to give judgment on Salami's suit.
Justice Bello was to determine whether or not the assent of President Goodluck Jonathan is needed for the reinstatement of Salami.
In a suit filed by the Centre for the Promotion of Arbitration, the plaintiffs dragged the National Judicial Council (NJC) and President Jonathan to court, seeking "an order of court directing the 3rd defendant, NJC, to recall Salami to resume his duties as the president of the Court of Appeal forthwith".
The judgment could not be delivered following JUSUN's strike in which the striking union is insisting that non-implementation of the approved consolidated judiciary salary structure for federal workers is an "injustice in the temple of justice".
All entrances leading to the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the Federal High Court in Abuja were yesterday shut down, while judiciary workers, litigants, lawyers and other visitors of the affected courts stood in clusters discussing the development; they were barred by officials of JUSUN from entering the courts.
Most of the staff members carried placards which read in part: "CONJUSS is our demand",
"It is Now or Never", "Please pay CONJUSS, JUSUN in Action".
At the Aso Villa leading to the Supreme Court, stern-looking armed security personnel mounted guard, apparently to ward off the striking workers from gaining entrance.
But LEADERSHIP gathered that the stoppage of vehicles on the road leading to the Supreme Court was an order from the chief of army staff.
President of JUSUN Mr. Mustapha Adamu blamed the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) through the Wages and Salaries Commission for the poor handling of the agreement and vowed that the strike would continue indefinitely to show their seriousness.
But the strike affected activities at the Supreme Court, National Judicial Council (NJC) Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC), National Judicial Institute (NJI), Court of Appeal, National Industrial Court (NIC) and Federal High Court in Abuja.
However, staff members of the FCT Judicial Service Committee have joined their federal staff counterpart in a solidarity strike.
LEADERSHIP visited the FCT High Court headquarters in Maitama but the place was under lock and key while security guards turned back litigants, lawyers and staff.
Similarly, the Chief Magistrates' Court in Wuse Zone II was deserted, leaving only security guards in sight.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP, Adamu said the strike is due to the insincerity on the part of the federal government.
He said, "The agreement was reached since 2009 and, since then, the circular was not issued; so the National Salary and Wages Commission cannot implement it. Right now, we are collecting N17, 000 as minimum wage, while the agreement said we should collect N37, 000 since 2009. Thirty-two state governments have implemented this agreement since. It is only the federal government that is adamant.
"In 2012, money was released to the head of the judiciary to implement this consolidated salary issues but, to our greatest dismay, we were not paid and the said money was returned to the federal government's coffers by the end of last year. So we want to know what is happening".
He added that JUSUN gave the federal government a 21-day ultimatum to implement the document or face industrial action but the government ignored the warning.
CJN appeals to workers to shelve strike
Meanwhile, CJN Justice Aloma Mukhtar has appealed to members of the JUSUN to call off their one-day-old strike and return to work.
The CJN however assured JUSUN members that their grievances would be addressed and a positive resolution reached in due course.
Speaking through her media aide, Mr. Ahuraka Isah, the CJN stated that a series of meetings was being held at the highest levels of authority concerned with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to ensure that the issues were resolved amicably.
In the statement issued by Isah, the CJN said, "The CJN is highly committed towards solving this age-long problem which is not within the purview of the judiciary arm of government alone to resolve.
"The CJN therefore appeals to the workers to suspend their strike and return to work, while assuring them that the ongoing meetings by the authorities concerned alongside with the Nigeria Labour Congress will resolve the matter once and for all."
It is criminal to lock up pubic place - NIC boss
But the president of the National Industrial Court (NIC), Justice Babatunde Adejumo, has informed his workers who are members of JUSUN that locking up of public places is a criminal offence.
Justice Adejumo, while addressing striking workers of the NIC yesterday, insisted that it amounts to criminal behaviour for the striking staff to lock up the court premises, and therefore advised them to fight their cause rightly.
Court gates closed in Sokoto
Meanwhile, the gates of both the Court of Appeal and that of the Federal High Court in Sokoto were yesterday locked and the environs deserted.
The chairman, Sokoto State branch of JUSUN, Abdulnasir Mohammed, said the strike followed the non-implementation of the salary structure of JUSUN members.
Kano judiciary joins nationwide strike
Also, members of the Kano State chapter of JUSUN yesterday joined the nationwide strike called by their national association.
The workers are protesting the non-implementation of the Consolidated Judicial Salary Structure (CONJUSS).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the workers barricaded the premises of the Federal High Court and the Industrial Arbitration Court situated along Court Road in the Kano metropolis.
Light activities in Lagos
Unlike what happened in Abuja and other places in Nigeria yesterday, judiciary workers in Lagos high courts in Ikeja, Ikorodu and Badagry did not comply with the strike directed by the national body of their union.
But at the Federal High Court in Lagos, most of the judges could not sit because of the strike.
However, Justice Okechukwu Okeke, who is due to retire in a months' time, sat briefly to hear the conclusion of one of the matters before him. He even went ahead to fix a judgement date for the case.
The workers of the state-owned courts did not join the strike as well.
FHC in Osun shut down as JUSUN begins strike
The gates of the Federal High Court Complex in Osogbo, Osun State, were under lock and key yesterday as members of JUSUN began an indefinite strike.
Scores of the workers that reported for duty early in the morning were chased away by some men believed to be officers of the union from Abuja who were drafted to the state to ensure compliance with the strike order.
Some lawyers and litigants whose cases were scheduled for yesterday came to the court only to find the court gates under lock and key.
Strike paralyses judicial activities in Oyo
Judicial activities were yesterday paralyzed at the federal courts in Ibadan, Oyo State, due to the industrial action embarked upon by members of the JUSUN.
LEADERSHIP observed that the gates to the Federal High Court and National Industrial Court of Nigeria, both at Adeoyo area of Ibadan, were locked against workers and lawyers.
Also, the entrance to the Court of Appeal at Iyaganku Quarters was also locked but with a heavy presence of police officers to maintain law and order.