By Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt and Bassey Anthony, Uyo
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has said that courts and state houses of assemblies may reopen next week after another meeting with the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) and governors.
The two unions have been on strike over the non-implementation of autonomy for state judiciary and legislature by governors.
But after Friday’s meeting between the government side and unions to smoothen the grey areas in the Memorandum of Action (MOA) reached on May 20, 2021, Ngige said the 36 governors, led by the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum and Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi and his Deputy, Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, have put their pen on paper on behalf of their colleagues on the historic agreement which they reached on May 20th.
According to the minister, with what they achieved at the meeting, it is expected that the courts and state assemblies would re-open next week, since all the grey areas have been smoothened.
In a statement by his Deputy Director of Press, Charles Akpan, yesterday in Abuja, Ngige said: “So today we met with the unions in a small dialogue to dot the i’s and cross the t’s in the agreement which we agreed will take effect from 20th of May.
“Right now, we expect the unions to go back to their members and give them a final briefing on what we have achieved today.
“And with this achievement of today, we are hopeful that by next week, the chambers of our courts and the doors of the state assemblies will be open for business activities to begin.”
Ngige said they were not oblivious that the strike had posed serious challenges to the nation, especially as the courts are closed and the law enforcement agencies have no place to take arrested criminals.
He therefore thanked the unions for all the efforts put in place in this final round of the dialogue in which the modalities that were not very clear the last time they met had been sorted to the satisfaction of both sides.
The Deputy President of JUSUN, Comrade Emmanuel Abisoye, commended Ngige for his efforts in resolving the dispute, saying that he expects all the parties to fulfill their own part of the agreement.
Abisoye assured that JUSUN will play its own part and expressed hope that the governors will do the needful to ensure that industrial harmony returns to the courts.
The President of PASAN, Comrade Mohammed Usman expressed hope that all stakeholders would do the needful within the shortest possible period to see that the workers in the state legislatures return to work.
The President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, thanked all the parties for reaching the milestone agreement.
“It is necessary to ensure that industrial harmony strives in this sector of our economy. It is important that this issue is put behind us,” Wabba said.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs and Secretary of the Implementation Committee for Judicial/Legislative Autonomy, Senator Ita Enang, thanked Mr. President and the Labour Minister for their efforts thus far to attain autonomy for the state legislature and judiciary.
He said the country cannot afford further closure of the courts and state assemblies having arrived at this stage, adding that the latest development would heal the security, human rights and political temperature of the country.