By Jennifer Ugwueke
The Federal Government has directed members of the striking Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) and the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria(PASAN) to “urgently” call off their over-two-month-old strike.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, gave the directive in a statement on Tuesday, threatening that the government might be forced to invoke “sections of the Trade Disputes Acts” if the strike persisted longer.
The threat is a government’s familiar warning of possible introduction of “no-work-no-pay” policy to break adamant striking workers.
“The ministry will 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 statement signed by the ministry of Labour and Employment’s Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, Charles Akpan, on Tuesday.
Members of the two unions have been on strike for over two months in agitation for the financial independence of the various state judiciaries and Houses of Assembly.
Specifically, JUSUN members began their strike on April 6, and since then, courts at both the state and federal levels have been shut across the country.
The labour minister, who leads the negotiation team regarding the industrial crisis, urged members of the two unions to immediately return to work in honour of the May 20, 2021 Memorandum of Action (MoA), signed by all parties.
Mr Ngige decried the situation where the courts and the state Houses of Assembly were still shut down across the federation “for no cogent reasons of non-adherence to the provisions of the May 20 Memorandum of Action which has 45 days implementation window.”
“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 State 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 Nigerian Labour Congress.
“Unfortunately, all federal courts have remained closed notwithstanding the fact that the Federal level of 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 quoted Mr Ngige as saying.
The minister added that state governors “are desirous that the State Assemblies be opened so that they can enact the laws meant to give effect to the autonomy as enshrined in the MOA.”
He added, “But we have advised all state governors that have consulted with their heads of judiciary and legislature to go ahead and credit the accounts of the judiciary and legislature before fine-tuning the laws.
“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 re-opening all the courts and the State 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.”
The minister also 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.”
Speaking with Us after the meeting, JUSUN treasurer, Jimoh Musa, said the strike suspension was agreed during the meeting between the Union and the National Judicial Council, NJC, today.
Although he noted that the suspension must be approved by National Executive Council of JUSUN, being the highest decision-making body of the Union which coincidentally is holding its NEC emergency meeting tomorrow.
He further stated that the strike will commence again after two or three months of suspension if the Governors fail to do the needful.