Proceedings in most courts across the country were yesterday paralyzed following the indefinite nationwide strike embarked on by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, JUSUN, to demand autonomy for the judiciary. The development came in defiance to the appeal by the Nigerian Bar Association to shelve the strike, saying it was ill-timed, considering the COVID-19 constraints the Nigerian courts had been battling within the last year. Similarly, academic activities at Polytechnics and Monotechnics in the country were also grounded yesterday as the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics commenced an indefinite strike over non-implementation of the 2014 NEEDS Report and non-release of revitalization fund to the sector despite assurances by the government since 2017
The action of the two unions is coming less than a week after resident doctors embarked on a nationwide strike over non-payment of allowances and other issues. JUSUN has been in the forefront of the battle for financial independence of the nation’s judiciary. The legal actions taken by the union led to a January 14, 2014 judgment of Justice Adeniyi Ademola, then a judge of the Federal High Court, abolishing the piece-meal funding of the state and federal courts by the executive. The court held that funds meant for the judiciary should instead be disbursed directly to the heads of court and not to the executive arm of government. The federal legislature and judiciary have, to a large extent, been enjoying financial autonomy status as they receive their appropriated funds in bulk unlike their counterparts at the state levels who always get what the governors feel like releasing to them. As part of efforts to tackle the challenge, President Muhammadu Buhari in May last year signed Executive Order 10 to give force to the provision of section 121(3) of the Constitution which guarantees the financial autonomy of the state legislature and state judiciary. The federal government was on the verge of starting the implementation of the Executive Order when the governors got the president to suspend it.