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Fed Govt to JUSUN: reopen courts 

By Yusuf Alli and Frank Ikpefan, Abuja 

Striking Judiciary and Parliamentary workers were on Tuesday asked to return to their duty posts.

The Federal Government said the reopening of the courtrooms by Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and Houses of Assembly by Parliamentary Staff Associations of Nigeria (PASAN) will pave the way for the implementation of the Memorandum of Action (MoA) signed on May 20.

The MoA was reinforced at another meeting on June 4.

This was the outcome of Tuesday’s parley of the Presidential Implementation Committee on the Autonomy for the Judiciary and Legislature with stakeholders and how to end the JUSUN strike.

Other stakeholders at the meeting are: the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, members of the National Judicial Coouncil (NJC) and JUSUN representatives.

In a statement in Abuja by spokesman of his ministry, Charles Akpan, Labour and Employment Minister, Dr.  Chris Ngige decried a situation where the courts and the Legislature Chambers remained shut down across the country for no cogent reasons of non-adherence to the provisions of  the May 20 Memorandum of Action, which has 45 days implementation window.

The statement said: “The Federal Government has sadly noted that the MOA between all the stakeholders involved in the JUSUN/PASAN strike, mainly JUSUN/PASAN, Governors’ Forum and the Presidential Implementation Committee is yet to take effect because of non-compliance by parties.

“We note that the strike has not been called off as of noon, today, June 8, 2021, leading to  courts and various Houses of Assembly still remaining under lock and key, contrary to the promise made by the two unions at  a further dialogue  which was attended by the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).

“Unfortunately, all Federal courts have  remained closed, notwithstanding the fact that the Federal Government  operates a financial autonomy of the Judiciary through the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the National Assembly through the statutory transfer lines.”

The statement noted that many governors were desirous that the state  Assemblies be opened so that they could enact  the  laws meant to give  effect to the autonomy as enshrined  in the MOA.

It added:  “But we have advised all governors that have consulted  with their  heads of Judiciary and Legislature  to go ahead and credit the accounts of Judiciary and Legislature before finetuning the laws.”

The statement also said: “We are worried  and, therefore, wish to appeal for the last time to all parties involved in the  signed agreement to abide by its spirit and letters, by  firstly reopening all the courts and the Houses of Assembly so that all other ingredients in the MOA can be given full compliance by all parties concerned.

“This much was agreed to between JUSUN/PASSAN and the Governors’ Forum at the last meeting  on Friday, June 4, 2021.”

Ngige noted that  with the courts closed, the police and other security agencies cannot  prosecute criminals, hoodlums and bandits, even as the nation is faced with heightened insecurity.

The statement said the Ministry of Labour and Employment would not be happy to be pushed into invoking sections of the Trade Disputes Acts capable of eroding all the gains made so far in the negotiations since May 6, 2021.

The presidential panel’s parley also focused on how to reopen the courts nationwide because of the increasing number of suspects awaiting trial.

The CJN also pleaded with JUSUN to shelve its strike because of outstanding cases.

But JUSUN insisted on meeting today to weigh all options, including its adamant stance that governors must deposit statutory transfers from the Federation Account for April.

As at last Friday, all the parties, including the governors, had signed the agreement on autonomy.

It was learnt that the only outstanding issue is the reopening of the courts and Houses of Assembly.

The latest development accounted for the meeting between the committee and the CJN.

A source, who spoke in confidence on the meeting, said: “At the session, the Secretary of the Presidential Implementation Committee, Senator Ita Enang, briefed the NJC on the terms of agreement with the governors, JUSUN and PASAN.

“The source said Enang appealed to the CJN and the NJC to prevail on JUSUN to call off its strike to give room for the implementation of the agreement, especially the enactment of enabling laws for autonomy for the Judiciary and the Legislature.

“The PIC Secretary clarified that at the session without Judiciary and parliamentary workers returning to their desks, the financial implications of the autonomy for the two arms cannot be computed.”

“He said there is a 45-day window to address all the conditions attached to the agreement.”

Another source said the CJN asked JUSUN to suspend their strike in order to allow justice to be served.

“He said the Judiciary workers should have “faith in the agreement.

“Members of the NJC at the meeting also prevailed  on JUSUN leaders to save the Judiciary from the consequences of prolonged strike.”

The source added: “The PIC met with the Parliamentary Staff Union last week and extracted an undertaking that it will allow the agreement to work.”

Asked of the response of JUSUN, the source said:” The union did not give any immediate commitment but it claimed that it will meet on Wednesday (today) to take a decision on the strike action.

“We are hopeful that JUSUN may suspend the strike today(Wednesday) so that the courts can reopen nationwide.”

Following the issuance of Executive Order 10 for autonomy for the Legislature and the Judiciary, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) had faulted the order and protested to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Issues raised by the governors were referred to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), who set up a committee headed by the Solicitor-General of the Federation, Mr. Dayo Akpata (SAN).

Akpata’s committee was able to “establish that it is within the powers of the President to issue an Executive Order, including EO10.

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