12th January, 2015
The strike embarked on by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, JUSUN, is a struggle for real autonomy of the judiciary and deserves support from lovers of true democracy. In any democratic government, all arms of government- Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, bear equal weight of responsibility. While the legislature is saddled with the responsibility of making laws, the judiciary is to interpret same while the executive run the government. To carry out these responsibilities, these three arms of government must be seen as functioning independent of each other to ensure a balanced society. This is exactly what the principle of separation of power presupposes.
Nigeria professes to be practising a democratic system of government but her real applications of democratic principle are far from the ideal standards. Unlike many other nations, Nigerian judiciary which is the beacon of justice and the hope of the common man suffers undue interference from the executive arm of government..
Since independence, the judiciary has remained the whipping organ of the other arms of government, totally starved of funds, controlled at will by the executive and reduced to mere rubber stamp by the legislature through clauses and obnoxious laws. For instance, while other arms of government submit their annual budget to the legislature for approval, the judiciary is deprived of doing same. Instead, judiciary’s budget estimates is sent to the executive instead of directly to the National Assembly.
Judiciary fund is also released in warrants by the executive instead of directly to the National Assembly for disbursement. This practise no doubt has made the judiciary largely dependent on the executive.This is the fight that judiciary workers are currently engaged in and we believe that it is a just struggle, more so when several courts had ruled on the illegality of the practise.
A judgment delivered by Justice Ademola on 13 January, 2014, declared that the piecemeal funding of the judiciary by the various state governments constituted a violation of Section 81(3) and 121(3) of the Constitution. The court had, among others, ordered that the Accountant-General of the Federation and Auditor of the Federation, their counterparts across the various states, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, be served with and comply with the judgment.
Further affirming the independent financial status of the judiciary was a judgment delivered by Justice Ahmed Mohammed of a Federal High Court in Abuja on 26 May, 2014. The court ordered in the judgment that the NJC should stop sending its annual budget estimate to the Budget Office of the executive arm of government or any other executive authority as it was being done.
Justice Mohammed held that just as the legislative houses were never required to send their budget estimates to any executive authority, there was no legal basis for the judiciary, which is equally an independent arm of government, to send its own to the executive arm.
On 27 November, 2014, the executive arm of government reached an agreement for the implementation of the court judgment. After government has reneged on that agreement, judiciary workers went on this indefinite strike action.
We believe that any action taken to wean the judiciary from oppression and bondage, whether by way of strike, court action or otherwise, should be supported by all democrats and indeed all lawyers. We urge the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, and indeed all lawyers to support JUSUN as they deserve our collective solidarity, not condemnation. We must all join in this struggle as a truly independent judiciary is the hope of the common man.