Abuja — There was a sigh of relief yesterday as courts and state Houses of Assembly are set to reopen for business following judicial and legislative workers' decision to pause their two-month-old industrial action to press for the implementation of financial autonomy for state judiciaries and legislatures.
Leaders of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) rose from their meetings in Abuja with the resolve to reopen the courts and legislatures.
JUSUN leaders said after a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting that their decision to end the strike was in deference to the National Judicial Council (NJC), which intervened in the matter.
In furtherance of its mediatory role, the NJC has set up a five-man committee to monitor the implementation of the Memorandum of Action (MoA) signed between the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) and the judicial workers on the financial autonomy for the judiciary in each of the 36 states of the federation.
Deputy President of JUSUN, Mr. Emmanuel Abisoye, told THISDAY shortly after the NEC meeting that the union was prevailed upon by the leadership of the NJC to suspend the strike.
The union, in communiqué at the end of the NEC meeting signed by Abioye said: "NEC-in-session discussed extensively and after putting so many issues into consideration, that is, the intervention of NJC and other stakeholders, the NEC has resolved that the strike is hereby suspended."
JUSUN commended the efforts of the NJC in making sure that the governors comply with the MoA, court judgment, and agreement on the financial autonomy for the judiciary.
Also, PASAN leadership said they suspended the strike in principle based on the MoA signed between them and the governors on the implementation of the contentious financial autonomy for the judiciary and legislature in each state.
In a telephone interview with THISDAY yesterday, the National President of PASAN, Mr. Mohammed Usman, said leaders of the union met virtually to agree to call off the strike.
He, however, said a formal meeting of NEC of PASAN would be convened before the end of the week to decide on the date to resume work.
He said: "We did not call off the strike; we only suspended it based on the agreement that was signed between the governors' forum, the speakers' forum, the federal government, JUSUN and PASAN. It is based on that Memorandum of Agreement that we are suspending our strike." He stated that the workers suspended the strike to give room for those states where there are no structures in place for the take-off of the financial autonomy to establish them.
According to him, the governors are expected to use the period of 45 days granted by the MoA to put everything thing in place and to commence the implementation of the agreement, failing which the unions will have no alternative than to restart the strike.
NJC Constitutes Panel to Monitor Govs' Compliance with Agreement
Meanwhile, the NJC has set up a five-man committee to monitor the implementation of the Memorandum of Action (MoA) signed between the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) and JUSUN.
The NJC took the decision after its meeting on Tuesday with leaders of JUSUN and some other stakeholders, during which it demanded an end to the strike in view of its impact on the nation's court system and appeals from other stakeholders.
NJC's spokesman, Mr. Soji Oye, in a statement yesterday, said the NJC, led by its Chairman and Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, prevailed on the workers to end the industrial action.
The statement reads in part: "Sequel to the prolonged strike of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and its effect on the judiciary and the nation at large, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, National Judicial Council, Justice I. T. Muhammad, convened an emergency meeting of council on Tuesday, 8 June 2021, with the chief judges of states, the JUSUN executive members as well as Senator Ita Enang, the Senior Special Adviser to the President and Secretary of the Implementation Committee with a view to finding a lasting solution to the lingering strike.
"The Chief Justice of Nigeria and other stakeholders during the interface lamented that the strike had affected the judiciary in particular and the nation at large and therefore sought for a way to resolve the lingering issue.
"Emmanuel Abisoye, Deputy President of JUSUN who briefed the council on behalf of the executive members of the association, during the stakeholders meeting, explained that the grouse of the union was that despite the constitutional provision of sections 81 (3), 121 (3), 162 (9) and the judgment delivered since 2015 in favour of JUSUN, the Executive Order 10 of 2020 and the agreement reached between the union, the Nigeria Governors' Forum, the governors have refused to yield financial autonomy to the state judiciary.
"He added that the union's other grievances include; non-payment of peculiar allowance for judiciary staff; an attempt by the Kaduna State governor to place the state judiciary under its civil service and scheming for a state judicial council.
"He posited that the Nigeria Governors' Forum was merely playing politics with the constitution and had also failed to remit the one-month payment agreed on at the end of May as a demonstration of their good faith.
"Abiri opined that if the forum could renege on fulfilling its promise at the end of the month of May, there was no guarantee that it would not in June.
"He, therefore, requested that the Accountant-General of the Federation is directed to deduct from source the amount meant for the judiciary before the union could call off the strike.
"Council, therefore, yielded the floor to Senator Ita Enang, Senior Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, the Secretary of the Presidential Implementation Committee and a conciliator to the trade union, who pleaded with the council to intervene by appealing to JUSUN to suspend the strike even if not calling it off, to enable the various governors implement the agreement.
"He promised that Executive Order 10 would be enforced on any governor who failed to implement.
"At the end of deliberations, the council advised JUSUN to consider suspending the strike in the interest of the administration of justice and national interest.
"Thereafter, the JUSUN executive requested for a 10-minute break to enable them to consult with their members, a request which the council gladly obliged.
"The executive members of JUSUN returned to inform the council that they have agreed with the advice of council, adding that the National Executive Council (NEC) of JUSUN will meet on Wednesday 9 June 2021 to suspend the strike.
"The council thereafter set up a five-man committee in order to monitor the implementation of the Memorandum of Action signed between the Nigeria Governors' Forum and JUSUN."