[Barrister Okoi Obono-Obla]
Why Governor Ben Ayade must implement the resolution adopted by stakeholders on the 7th July, 2015 concerning the strike action by Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria
It is beyond argument that the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) (including its Cross River State Branch) embarked on a strike action in December, 2014, concerning the failure of the Federal and State Governments in the country to obey the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, delivered on the 13th January, 2014, by Honourable Justice A. F. A. Ademola in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/667/2013 that held that the Judiciary in the country should be granted financial autonomy and independence as spelt out in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) especially Section 121 (3) thereof.
The Judgment also directed the Accountant General of the Federation to deduct and pay directly to the National Judicial Council for remittance to State Judiciaries, allocation to the Judiciary from the Federation Accounts.
The strike action led to the closure of the High Court; Magistrate’s and Customary Courts in the Cross River State of Nigeria.
Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State
While the Federal Government and most State Governments in the country promptly settled the outstanding issues that led to the strike, the Government of Cross River State has not shown any serious resolve the settle the issue that led to the strike action by Court workers leading to a total crippling of the administration of justice in the State for the past 9 (Nine) Months.
It is also instructive that after Governor Ben Ayade took over the reins of governance in the State some efforts were made by all stakeholders concerned to resolve the lingering strike action by holding talks to come to a compromise. Consequently, in a meeting held on the 7th July, 2015, between: Governor Ben Ayade; the Secretary to the State Government; the Chairman of Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, Cross River State Branch, Comrade Asanya A. Ebong; the Chief Registrar of the High Court; the Chairmen of the Nigerian Bar Association, Calabar/ Ikom and Ogoja Branches; and the representatives of The Honourable Chief Judge of the High Court of Cross River State of Nigeria, a resolution was adopted that is supposed to be embodied in a memorandum of understanding to be signed by all concerned parties.
For the avoidance of any doubt the following resolution was adopted at the meeting thus:
1. That commencing from the 2015 Budget, there shall be a total compliance by the Executive Arm of the Government of Cross River State with the provisions of Section 121 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) to the effect that all funds accruing to the credit of the Judiciary of Cross River State in the Federation/Consolidated Revenue Fund, be paid directly to the Head of the Cross River State Judiciary through the Accounting Officer of the Judiciary as a First Line Charge;
2. The Executive Arm of the Government of Cross River State shall communicate to the Accountant General of the Federation in writing to release the funds standing to the credit of the Cross River State Judiciary from the Federation/Consolidated Revenue Fund and remit same to the Head of Court of Cross River State;
3. The Executive Arm of the Government shall release all outstanding monies due to the Judiciary prior to June, 2015, to the Head of Court of Cross River State;
4. The Governor shall provide official vehicles to all serving Judges and Magistrates in line with earlier promises;
5. There is hereby constituted a Monitoring Committee to ensure compliance with the provisions of Section 121 (3) of the Constitution, the Court Judgment, and in line with this MOU. The Monitoring Committee shall be comprised of:
(a) Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN); The Secretary to the State Government (SSG); The Attorney General of the State; The Chief Registrar of the High Court; and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in the Committee;
(b) The Chairman of the Committee shall be the representative of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in the Committee, pursuant to Paragraph 5 (a) above.
(c) The Secretary of the Committee shall be the Chief Registrar of the High Court of the Committee.
6. That the strike embarked upon by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) should be called off forthwith to allow the Courts to function. No staff of the Judiciary of Cross River State shall be victimized for his/her participation in the nationwide strike embarked upon by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) on Judiciary autonomy.
But unfortunately, Governor Ben Ayade has shown a lack of commitment and political will to implement the resolutions adopted in the meeting of 7th July, 2015, by appending his signature to the Memorandum of Understanding reached between all Stake-holders.
We strongly condemn the failure, refusal and or neglect of Governor Ben Ayade to respect the resolutions reached on the 7th July, 2015, by stake holders and we consider the action of Governor Ayade as unfortunate and a manifest revelation of his disinterestedness in ending the strike that has crippled the machinery of justice in the State for Nine Months.
We consider the action of Governor Ayade as an infraction of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which he has sworn on Oath to preserve and defend.
We therefore call on Governor Ben Ayade to immediately implement the resolutions adopted on the 7th July, 2015.
Okoi Ofem Obono-Obla Chief Utum Eteng
(Legal Practitioner) (Legal Practitioner)
Abuja, Nigeria. Cross River State, Nigeria.
12th August, 2015. 12th August, 2015.