Senior lawyers in the country have accused the governors of the 36 states of the federation of showing indifference to justice delivery in the country.
The Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), who spoke with our correspondents in Abuja, said the governors are afraid of what they would lose if the financial autonomy of the judiciary is guaranteed.
Judiciary workers in the country under their umbrella body, Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), had been on strike for the past two months in protest of the refusal of state governors to grant financial autonomy to the judiciary.
Upbraiding the governors for demonstrating gross insensitivity towards the third arm of government, former attorney-general of Abia State and Professor of law, Chief Awa Kalu (SAN) said the strike embarked on by JUSUN has halted justice delivery in the country.
According to him, suspects that have been arrested by the police will not have the opportunity to be tried in court because of the strike action.
Prof Kalu said despite the judiciary workers’ strike, the police has no right under Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to detain a suspect indefinitely.
”Inevitably guided by the provisions of Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution, the police has no power to detain a suspect indefinitely.
”There are offences where suspects can be granted administrative bail. There is a way they can take his details so that he will be available when needed,” Kalu said.
Another learned silk, Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN), accused the governor of not being interested in justice, just as he described lawmakers in the states as cowards who eat crumbs from the table of the governors.
ALSO READ: JUSUN, NBA Embark On Peaceful Protest Over Financial Autonomy In Kogi
Blaming the governors for the strike that has lasted for about two months now, Ahamba said, ”I blame the governors for all that is happening now in the judiciary. The governors do not want to comply with the demands of the judicial workers. They are not interested in justice.
”Lawmakers in the various states have abdicated their responsibilities. We have lawmakers who have no guts to tell their governors the truth. They want to be eating crumbs from the he table of the governors.
”They have the constitutional duties to impeach the governors, if they are not doing the right thing”.
On his part, Ahmed Raji (SAN) said it was unfortunate that the governors allowed the strike to last for this long.
Noting that the repercussion of the strike action is multidimensional, the senior advocate absolved the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad of any blame in the current situation of the courts.
Raji said, ”The JUSUN strike is unfortunate and the repercussion is multidimensional. Apart from the issue of the suspects who may have been denied their freedom, what message are we sending to the international communities? As a nation that believes in the rule of law, closing down the courts for almost eight weeks now is something that clearly cannot be justified.
”My appeal is that all the layers of government, the federal, the state and stakeholders should quickly do something about it and bring it to a stop so that the sage can be stemmed.
”The CJN cannot go and sit alone; there must be supporting staff. Those who those who are supposed to do the needful are the policy makers and they should do the needful. I do not think it is fair to expect the CJN to do anything. The staff are on strike and they are adamant and have made their point. So, let the executive do the needful.
”We cannot say government is standing on two legs because judiciary in the country has not been closed down. The third leg still exists and the judiciary is still an arm of government, a potent one at that. What is going on is what I would describe as part of the challenges of a developing nation which I believe will further entrench democracy and constitutionalism in our system. The leg is still there and standing; it’s just that for now it is not standing.”
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Police Force said they are eagerly waiting for an end to the strike and the reopening of the courts soon as the JUSUN strike has caused congestion in police holding cells across the country.
The inspector-general of police, IGP Usman Baba had recently directed that only suspects arrested for serious offences should be detained.
FCT Police public relations officer (PRO), ASP Yusuf Mariam, said the strike has caused congestion at police holding cells and the police “are managing the situation as expected but are also hoping for the reopening (of courts) soon.”
Also, an officer in charge of the legal department of the FCT police command, James Idachaba, said police detention facilities are overcrowded with crime suspects due to the closure of the courts.
According to him, the negative impacts of the ongoing strike by judiciary workers on police detention facilities cannot be overemphasised.
Idachaba further said what the police are trying to do is to comply with the inspector-general of police’s and FCT commissioner of police’s directive that only suspects with serious offences like kidnapping, violent crimes like armed robbery, culpable homicide, rape and the likes are to be detained because we don’t have power to release those ones on bail.
He stated: “We have no other option but to continue to keep them until the courts open for the purpose of proper prosecutorial procedures.
“Our facilities are overwhelmed but we cannot stop arresting criminals, we cannot stop investigating and we cannot stop carrying out our police activities; we must do our job.
“Suspects with minor offences are not in our facilities; as soon as the preliminary processes are done, they are granted bail.”