Activities resumed on Tuesday at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), Abuja and some courts in Kano after the suspension of the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) 64-day strike.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the strike, the longest industrial action in the Nigerian judiciary was suspended on June 9, following a meeting between officials of the union and the National Judicial Council (NJC) led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad.
Both parties agreed that the strike should be called off in the interest of the nation and to give room for the implementation of agreements JUSUN reached with the Federal Government.
JUSUN had begun a nationwide strike on Tuesday, April 6, when the union directed all its members across the federation to shut down all courts after the expiration of the 21-day ultimatum earlier given over the failure of the government to implement the law.
NAN correspondent who monitored activities reports that the premises of the court on Gimbiya Street, Area 11, Garki, was buzzing with activities as staff members attended to lawyers and litigants.
The court staff, however, said they were waiting for directives from the judges to start giving dates for cases.
Some lawyers were also seen at the central registry of the court either filing additional or fresh processes.
A staff of the registry, Mr Aminu Ibrahim said “as you can see the registry is opened and you can see people waiting their turn to file old and fresh processes”.
It was also observed that some staff moved around offices to exchange pleasantries and catch up with colleagues they had not seen for months.
Although there were no physical court sittings slated for Tuesday, however, the court has virtual proceedings for two courts by 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.
NAN reports that the President, NICN, Justice Benedict Kanyip, has equally issued a practice direction, exempting payment of default fees for filing processes in the court for the period of the JUSUN strike, being from April 6 to June 14.
Kanyip issued the directions in the exercise of the powers conferred on him by Section 254F(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended and Section 36 of the NICN (Civil procedure) Rules 2017.
He further directed that the practice directions shall come into effect from Tuesday.
Also, normal activities began in Kano State Magistrates’ Court.
A NAN correspondent who monitored the development in Kano Metropolis, reports that lawyers and litigants were seen at the court premises taking dates for hearing of their cases.
Some of the courts visited were Magistrates’ court at Gidan Murtala, Nomans Land, Zungeru Road, Court Road, and State High Court Miller Road.
A verdict of the Federal High Court in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, had in January 2014 held that financial autonomy for the judiciary is a constitutional provision that must be complied with by the executive branch of government.
On May 23, President Buhari signed into law the Executive Order to grant financial autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary across the 36 states of the country.
The order also mandates the Accountant-General of the Federation to deduct from source amount due to state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocation to each state for states that refuse to grant such autonomy.
The Attorney General of the Federation Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said Executive Order No. 10 of 2020 made it mandatory that all states of the federation should include the allocations of both the legislature and the judiciary in the first-line charge of their budgets.
According to the AGF: “A Presidential Implementation Committee was constituted to fashion out strategies and modalities for the implementation of financial autonomy for the State Legislature and State Judiciary in compliance with section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended).”
The Nigeria Governors Forum said it will start implementing financial autonomy for the judiciary latest by May ending, a pledge that indicated that an end to the ongoing strike that has crippled the nation’s judiciary may be in sight.
The governors also called on striking members of the JUSUN to call off their two weeks old strike then.
The Chairman of the NGF, Gov. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, gave this assurance in an interview with journalists after meeting with “stakeholders” from the state judiciary and legislature at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Fayemi said the modalities for the implementation were worked out at the meeting held at the Presidential Villa.
According to him, the meeting, chaired by the Chief of Staff to President Buhari, Ibrahim Gambari, was attended by the Solicitor-General of the Federation, representatives of the judiciary, Conference of Speakers and House of Representatives.
The first line charge status, which is being respected by the Federal Government in respect of the federal judiciary, entitles the state judiciaries to get funds due to them directly from the Federation Account