By Moses John
MOSES JOHN writes on the struggle by the judiciary workers to win the arm of government from the grip of the executive.
African trade union organisations from 25 countries across the continent, and Civil Society Organisations, have fashioned out ways to implement ECOWAS Free Movement and Migration (FMM) programme.
This was at the high point of their meeting , last weekend in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.
The In a communiqué issued at the end of the 3-day meeting, the group said it discussed how non-state actors can influence the attainment of a rights-based UN Global Compact on Migration.
Similarly, it also focused on developing practical actions to respond to other migration issues within and outside Africa.
The communiqué was read by NLC Focal Person on Migration, Comrade Eustace Imoyera James.
He said participants at the meeting affirmed that migration is delivering gains to migrants, sending, transit and receiving or host communities.
According to him, the meeting saw migration as an historic human, global and ever-continuing phenomenon that cannot be stopped.
The meeting disclosed that participants, also reaffirmed that over 80% of African migrants were moving within the continent and far more within the sub-region blocs.
“This fact should help in reframing the rather unfortunate mainstream media narrative that tend to suggest that migration and African migrants’ movement are dysfunctional and hurting development, as well as disrupting other continents.
“The current migration challenges, which have contributed to the increase and intense topical global dominance of migration discourse are largely man-made.
“We know and are confident that these challenges can be effectively addressed in humane and just ways that will better facilitate and accelerate the cause of humanity. Thus, genuine and germane efforts and relevant stakeholders should be consciously mobilized to effectively address the current gaps.”
The group, however, commended and noted that the ECOWAS has robust protocols backed with pragmatic programmes and practice, as well as reforms that have helped and still helping to advance people’s movement and mobility within her blocs.
They advised other African sub-region blocs to adopt and replicate where appropriate and applicable, the migration and mobility facilitating mechanism.
JUSUN and struggle for judicial autonomy
Theory of separation of power
It was a French Philosopher, Baron de Montesquieu that formulated the theory of ‘doctrine of separation of power’. Perhaps, he foresaw a situation where an individual or arm of government may want to usurp the power of others.
The Supreme Court of America, in Satinger vs. Philippine, held that “it may be stated as a general rule inherent in the American Constitutional system, that, unless otherwise expressly provided or incidental to the powers conferred, the legislature cannot exercise either executive or judicial power, the executive cannot exercise either legislative or judicial power, the judiciary cannot exercise either executive or legislature power.”
What Nigeria Constitution says
Also, Sections 4,5 and 6 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, are not silent on this. For instance, section 4 explains powers of the legislature, while section 5 on its part, centres around the powers of the executive, with section 6 dwelling on the powers and functions of the Judiciary.
Similarly, Sections 121 (3), 81 (3) and 162(9) of the same constitution , speak to the financial autonomy of the judiciary. The sections say “any amount standing to the credit of the Judiciary in the consolidated Revenue account shall be paid directly to the National Judicial Council for disbursement to the heads of Courts established for the States under section 6 of this constitution”. However, with this background, one can only but wonder why one arm of government will want to usurp the power of the other, giving the doctrine of separation of power that should guide the system.
Struggle for judicial autonomy
Despite the clearly spelt out roles for the three arms, it is serious struggle for workers in the judiciary to win autonomy for the arm. After series of engagement with stakeholders, the workers approached the Federal High Court for interpretation of the sections above.
And in January 2014, the union, after a legal battle lasting almost 2 years, got a court judgement awarded in its favour by the Federal High Court Abuja, affirming members’ position on the fiscal autonomy and independence of the judiciary.
Battling governors for implementation
Efforts by the union to get the governors implement the court ruling fell on deaf ears since 2014, despite series of Memorandum of Understanding signed on this matter.
One of such was signed at the tail end of former President Goodluck Jonathan. The then Secretary to the Federal Government, Anyim Pius Anyim, in ensuring the strike by Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, was suspended, summoned a stakeholders’ meeting with all the 36 Attorney General and Commissioners of Justice and Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) among others.
The meeting further appreciates the position of the workers, specifically, when it became obvious that the state governors represented by their Attorneys General are not willing to obey the judgements and implement the provision of the constitution by refusing to make oral or written commitment to comply.
The NBA was to later intervene with a proposal to persuade compliance from the governors, hence the suspension of the strike by the union. At the instance of the then SGF, a monitoring committee at the national level was headed by the NBA president, while at the state level, it was headed by chairmen of respective state NBA with other stakeholders to ensure compliance. The governors agreed to another MoU, but unfortunately, nothing is done till date on the matter.
Speaking on the development, President of JUSUN, Comrade Marwan Mustapha Adamu laments that governors had to be persuaded to no avail, to comply with the ruling of the court.
Marwan, who recently graduated from National Institute for Strategic Studies (NIPS), Kuru, Jos Plateau state, says as it stands, some governors regard the matter as dead, believing in their hearts that judiciary in Nigeria are not more than the errand arm of the Executive.
The JUSUN president further warns that government at all levels, must do something urgently to save the situation as the union can no longer guarantee industrial harmony in the nation judicial system.
Increasing years of service
The union, also in its usually selfless stance to ensure autonomy and a vibrant judiciary, calls for an urgent review of the retirement age for Judges in both the federal and state governments’ employ.
Even though the members are mostly non Judges, they believe this would bring sanity and the needed reform to the sector.
Presently, Judges at the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal retired at 70, while other judicial officers retire at 65. But the union is insisting on a review to 75 and 70 for federal and state judges respectively. Ordinarily, one will think that JUSUN will only restrict its activities to the defence and protection of the job and welfare of their members. But with the union’s antecedents in recent time, it is clear that JUSUN’s major concern is a total reform in the sector.
CJN 13-man steering committing
However, with the setting up of a 13-man committee by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghene to undertake a holistic review of the operations of the nation’s judiciary with a view to identifying the challenges hindering its efficient and effective operations as an arm of government, one expects that succour may be on the way to free judiciary from the executive’s grip.
The steering committee, inaugurated May 5, 2017 by the CJN himself, has the following terms of reference; to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the administrative structure and operations of the three arms of government with a view to exploring areas of comparative advantage and mutual cooperation, to undertake comprehensive review of the operations and conditions of service of the Nigeria judiciary with a view to enhancing general efficiency and effectiveness.
Others are; to recommend long and short-term measures that would help in the general improvement of the welfare/condition of service of both judicial and non judicial officers, to call for memorandum from former Chief Justices of Nigeria, Presidents Court of Appeal, Chief Registrars, and other stakeholders on the way forward, to create a professional/management structure for the administration of the Judiciary with a “head” well versed in judicial administration, to create a professional Bailiffs and Sheriffs/Judiciary Police Department, and to propose a pooling policy and recommend a rule to empower the Federal Judicial Service Commission to commence the operation of a pooling system of Senior Officers within the Judiciary.
JUSUN writes CJN
The workers, who, out of respect for the CJN, waited for the outcome of the committee’s assignment, feel it is taken longer time than necessary to implement the committee’s report.
To this end, the union, in a recent letter to the CJN, says it should not be held responsible for any industrial dispute.
The letter, signed by JUSUN General Secretary, Comrade Isaiah Adetola, laments the neglect of judiciary as an arm of government, which in most cases court rooms are housed in rented apartment in most states in Nigeria.
It also cites a court judgement awarded in favour of the union by the Federal High Court Abuja, affirming the position of the union on the fiscal autonomy and independence of the judiciary.
Adetola also says, despite several correspondences from the union to President Muhammadu Buhari on the development, no effort was made to address the unfortunate development, warning that the wrokers’ patience is being over tasked.
“The Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria, sir, the pressure on this subject is heavy on the leadership of JUSUN from her members across Nigeria on this crucial constitutional matter, which should not be left indefinitely unattended to by the governments of the Federation. We of JUSUN also see it as a win point for Nigeria, if all issues concerning the independence and financial autonomy of the Judiciary could be resolved once and for all.
“The leadership of JUSUN had engaged in persuasion to calm the membership of the union down from embarking on any form of industrial action. It is almost certain that no amount of persuasion would pacify JUSUN members from whatever decision they would take.
“JUSUN may not like to accept any blame that might arise out of this issue, because the union had endured it all since January 2014 when judgement was delivered and no action was taken by the governors concerned who are living above the constitution of Nigeria. They have refused to neither implement the Court’s ruling nor go to higher Court on Appeal. What next can the union do apart from embarking on industrial disobedience?”.
The letter with the little complaints and displeasure of the Federal and State Judiciary Workers of Nigeria, dated September 18, 2017 is also copied to the Chairman, Body of Chief Judges of Nigeria, Chief Judge of Federal High Court, Abuja, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, NLC president and a host of others.