There have been mounting concerns over the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria’s (JUSUN) strike which commenced on January 5, 2015 which resulted in the total shut down of courts nationwide including all judiciary institutions such as the National Judicial Council (NJC), the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) and the National Judicial Institute. The Union seeks the implementation of a court judgment given by Justice Adeniyi Ademola of a Federal High Court in Abuja last year ordering the Accountant-General of the Federation to comply with sections 83(1), 212(3) and 162(9) of the 1999 Constitution (as Amended) which guarantee the financial independence of the judiciary.
JUSUN claims that the refusal of the Accountant General of the Federation and those of the States to include the judiciary in the first line charge by directly deducting and remitting funds from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the credit of the judiciary and the various heads of court through the NJC threatens the independence of the judiciary as an arm of government. The Union further claims that the Constitution would not have envisaged political autonomy without financial autonomy. For instance, section 162(9) states that “ Any amount standing to the credit of the Judiciary in the Federation Account shall be paid directly to the National Judicial Council for disbursement to the heads of court established for the Federation and the States under section 6 of the Constitution”.
However, despite the Union’s justification for the strike action,there have been calls from certain quarters which insist that the Union should have returned to court to seek an enforcement of its order, rather than its reverting to strike action. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy that the Union claims that it had engaged with the Government up to 20 times including entering into a Memorandum of Understanding severally to ensure the adherence of the Court order. Further, though the Accountant General of the Federation, has explained that its non-implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding and court order is in deference to states who have asked for a reconciliation of their accounts, before implementation, he failed to address the timeline for the completion of the reconciliation process.
Further, with the forthcoming General Elections less than a month away, many fear that the failure of the Attorney General of the Federation and the States to comply with the court judgment compromises the judiciary’s mandate to act without fear and favour and question the Government’s resolve to uphold and strengthen Nigeria’s
democracy and its institutions. While the strike has now been called off at the Federal level, political and financial will must be extended to the state level to ensure its full compliance with the court ruling.