This is coming against the background of allegations that the judiciary could be used to scuttle the nation’s democracy as the 2015 general elections are around the corner.As at the time of filing this report, investigation revealed that no single judicial officer throughout the federation has received his/her February salary while some judiciary workers are being owed up to five months salaries in Benue and Plateau states.It was gathered that the affected judicial officers who are yet to receive their February salaries include the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Mahmud Mohammed. While other ministries have been paid, the judiciary which should be the first on line of charge has not been paid, Marwa said. A member of the federal government monitoring committee set up to find out why funds were not released for payment of judicial officers’ salaries said that the government has no cogent reason for not paying the salaries.The federal government monitoring committee which is chaired by the president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Austin Alegeh SAN, also has as members, representatives of the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Accountant General of the Federation, as well as representatives of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and JUSUN.It would be recalled that Justice Ademola Adeniyi, sitting at the Federal High Court, Abuja, January, 2014 delivered judgment on the case JUSUN Vs. FGN brought before his court.In January this year, JUSUN embarked on a nationwide strike that paralysed the entire judiciary and till date the judiciary in 16 states are still under lock and key.Justice Ademola had restrained the federal government and the 36 state governors from holding onto funds meant for the judiciary.A year and three months after Justice Ademola’s judgment our correspondents went round some of the states and reports as follows:In Benue State, the judiciary continues to remain under lock and key following the inability of the state government to comply with the January 2014 court judgment. The prolonged strike has stalled a lot of awaiting trial cases in prison and caused hardship for many lawyers who have remained idle since the judicial workers embarked on the strike.A lawyer who didn’t want his name in print told our correspondent in Makurdi that the development had elongated the legal process of securing bail for some of his clients.Daily Trust gathered from some officials of JUSUN in the state that the strike would be called off as soon as governments heeds the court’s directive.According to them, states such as Kwara and Kogi that have opted out of the nationwide strike did so because their governments immediately complied with the judgment. But, the state government through its director on media and public affairs, James Uloko, explained that negotiation is currently going on with JUSUN and that very soon, the strike would be over.“Negotiation is going on. We are hopeful that very soon the strike will be called off,” he said. In the 16 affected states, including Taraba, Zamfara and Gombe states, the story is not different as the over two months’ strike embarked upon by JUSUN is impacting negatively on lawyers, the prosecution of suspects arrested for various offenses and the prison inmates.It was gathered that the strikes also portends serious danger for the nation if it is not called off forthwith as the candidates of the various political parties who might have genuine pre and post-election grievances may resort to self- help where they cannot go to the courts to ventilate their grievances. The situation in Rivers State is however complex. Although the JUSUN has since called off the strike but the judiciary workers have not been able to go to work due to insecurity. Less than 70 days for Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s administration to come to an end, the crisis rocking the state’s judiciary is far from coming to an end. The crisis which has lasted for two years, has put the courts in the state under lock and key and has equally affected the financial base of many lawyers as they go cap in hand looking for what to lean on to survive.The crisis in Rivers State judiciary started when Governor Amaechi, against the recommendation of the NJC, refused to swear in Justice Daisy Okocha who is the most senior judge in the state as the substantive CJ. Instead the governor preferred the president of the state Customary Court, Justice Emma Agumagu. The NJC recommended Justice Okocha as the substantive CJ and directed Governor Amaechi to swear her in but the governor refused. The state judiciary continued to thrive in crisis as there was no CJ to assign cases to judges. The development affected litigants as many case files were lying fallow in courts while prisons and police detention facilities continued to be over crowded. Amaechi’s attempt to appoint an administrative judge through the act of the state legislation to assign cases to judges met a stone wall as judges in the state vowed not to take any case assigned to them by an administrative judge. The crisis in the state judiciary was followed by bomb blasts which erupted in the high courts and magistrate courts located in different parts of the state.The state chapter of the judicial staff union embarked on indefinite strike citing insecurity in court premises. The leadership of the union in the state had argued that with the series of bomb blasts in the state judiciary premises located in Port Harcourt, Omoku, Degema, Ahoada and Isiokpo, the safety of lives of their members could not be guaranteed. The strike paralysed the administrative structure of the courts.The courts in the state have remained under lock and key despite interventions from professional bodies and well-meaning citizens of the state. Justice Daisy Okocha had gone to court recently praying it to stop Governor Amaechi from appointing a substantive chief judge for the state.In Ekiti, the state chapter of the judiciary workers is also yet to call off the strike.A judicial officer said a congress was called by the leadership of the union last week Monday where a resolution to continue with the strike was taken.The member who said she did not want her name mentioned said that the issue between the union and the state governor was that while the judiciary was demanding for autonomy, especially financial, the governor has repeatedly said there was no money to fund that.She however said that their members are not being owed any salary.She said: “We are still on strike and only God knows when it will be called off because the governor has not responded positively to our demand for autonomy of the judiciary.”However, the strike is already affecting the prosecution of various cases pending at the state police command as the Commissioner of Police, Taiwo Lakanu, recently said.It is for these reasons that the CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, has appealed to state chief executives to be mindful of government.His said: “Therefore state governors must be particularly minded of their constitutional responsibility and the rule of law of which a crucial component is obedience to court orders. The JUSUN is also reminded that however meritorious its cause may be, the average Nigerian, who is the most important stakeholder in the justice sector, is the loser. I therefore call upon JUSUN to explore means of pursuing its legitimate claims with consideration for all court users and the public so as to quickly bring the strike to an end.”Meanwhile, efforts to reach the president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Austin Alegeh SAN, have proved abortive. Text messages sent to his phone were also not replied.A Kaduna-based lawyer who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “clients do not come to consult lawyers again. It is not easy; some law firms have not paid juniors for three months now. Strike has really held down so many lawyers.”Joseph Otteh, of Access to Justice (A2J) in his reaction said, “This unresolved and protracted strike action by JUSUN has had a catastrophic effects on the ability and rights of tens of thousands or even hundred of thousands to access courts for the resolution of their dispute. The impact is more brutally felt in the criminal justice service agree where many arrested persons are in prolonged detention because they cannot be taken to trial courts by the police nor can they approach courts for their release on bail. “Evidently, the brunt of the strike action is borne mostly by those who have no connection, cousual or otherwise with the issues of grievances raised by the strike action. Those whose actions or inactions led to the strike and who have chief responsibility for resolving JUSUN’S legitimate cause, are largely unscathed by it. This is unfair and inequitable, the suffering is disproportionately and unjustly one-sided or better put wrong-sided.”States where the JUSUN strike has been called off:1. NORTH WEST- Jigawa; Katsina; Kano; Zamfara; Kebbi; Sokoto (to be called off Monday) - though not yet called off in Kaduna but there is serious discussion going on.2. NORTH CENTRAL- Niger; Kwara; Kogi (it has not been called off in Nasarawa; Benue; Plateau. NB in Benue / Plateau JUSUN members who are owed 5 months’ salaries are set to go to court to garnishee the states accounts)3. NORTH EAST - Bauchi; Borno; Maiduguri have called off the strike (but Taraba; Adamawa; Gombe and Yobe are yet to call off strike)4. SOUTH WEST - Lagos and Ogun have called off (but Osun; Ondo; Oyo and Ekiti are yet to call off strike).5. SOUTHEAST- Enugu; Ebonyi and Imo have called off strike (but Abia and Anambra are yet to call off strike).6. SOUTH SOUTH- Delta; Rivers; Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom have called off strike (but Cross Rivers and Edo are yet to call off strike). With additional reports from: Hope Abah, Makurdi; Victor Edozie, Port Harcourt; Doyin Adebusuyi, Ado Ekiti
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