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While court was expected to be the last hope for the common man, the closure of courts in Ogun state for more than a month has led to a stall in justice. SODIQ OJUROUNGBE writes on how the closure has affected delivery of Justice in the state and response of government to the ongoing strike.
Dayo was asked to produce two sureties and the sum of N300,000 as conditions for his bail from prison. He was excited about being a free man, after his lawyer had assured him that his bail would be perfected in no time. He was in the prison waiting to be released. He was counting days, but days turned to weeks and judicial workers embarked on an indefinite strike over alleged short payment of salaries by the executive.
A day after Dayo was remanded, on August 11, members of the Judiciary Staff Union, Ogun State chapter declared an indefinite strike, thereby suspending judicial activities in the state.
Since the strike began, Dayo has been left in the confine of the prison as his lawyer claimed efforts in getting him out was being frustrated.
Although, Dayo was reportedly charged to court for assault, but a judge at the Magistrate court in Isabo area of Ogun state granted Dayo bail with conditions that must be met before his release.
Dayo was not alone in this, many residents of the state are facing one or two challenges due to the closure of the judiciary in the state.
PLATFORM TIMES gathered that the strike action has led to illegal detentions of suspected criminals as there is no court to hear their cases. Lawyers are being left with lot of cases while the court did not open to attend to them. Judges were left to continue treating thousands of cases while the court remained shut .
…Judicial workers lock Ogun courts over incomplete salaries
Without prior notice, Judicial workers in the state exactly August 11, declared an indefinite strike over alleged short payment of salary by the Ogun State government.
Edun Tajudeen, the state Chairman JUSUN said that the strike was in compliance with the National secretariat’s directive.
The Chairman believed the strike is the best alternative since the state government failed to yield to the demand of the judicial workers after holding several meetings.
Edun revealed that the judicial workers had noticed the shortage in their salaries since October 2020, but have been trying not to let it affect their works.
“it’s been a long time that we have been on the issue, and there were series of meeting, that is why we asked all members of the Judiciary staff to sit at home until when our request is granted.
“This strike we are embarking on is an indefinite strike, because on Feb. 24 there was an ultimatum given to the government for the payment of full salary before the nationwide strike on autonomy commerced.
“And after the strike, the meeting continues with the government which is not yielding any result”, he concluded.
…Justice on hold, suspects flood police nets without trial
Shade’s plan was to travel out of the country, the only clause delaying her jetting out is the awaiting judgment of her divorce case.
The judgment was to come up before 20th of August, but the impromptu strike action of judicial workers stalled it. Shade could not travel out, she has been left with no choice than to wait till the courts resume and the judgment is delivered on her case.
Similarly, while the court is under lock and key, many suspects are presently cooling their feet in police detention. PLATFORM TIMES gathered that many have spent more than 24 hours stipulated time in police custody since there is no available court to give verdicts on cases.
The 1999 Nigerian constitution clearly states that persons arrested or detained shall be brought before a court within a “reasonable time”.
According to the constitution, the reasonable time means a period of 24 hours when a court of competent jurisdiction is within a radius of 40 kilometres to the police station or a period of two days in any other case.
Section 35(4) of the 1999 constitution emphasized on the need for a case to be tried at competent court, while section 61 (1) of the Nigeria Police Act 2020 agrees with the provisions of the constitution stating that a suspect arrested without a court warrant, other than a capital offence, should be granted bail, where it is impracticable to charge to court within 24 hours.
Barrister Kayode Aderemi is a litigation lawyer, the strike has not only affected his finances, so many of his cases have been stalled.
Some of Aderemi’s clients who were arrested for minor offenses like rape, robbery, among others were presently in police detention. The suspects have not received fair hearing as there is no court to attend to their cases.
Apart from Aderemi’s client in police detention, he has about four judgments to have been delivered if not for the ongoing strike. Aderemi’s two ongoing trials have been stalled, he has been left to engage in other things like legal consultancy, royalty accounts, among others.
“Because of my penchant for people freedom and human right, I get calls everyday, people call me and say police have arrested them or someone close to them up till yesterday, I still got a call but I know that if I go to police and I tell them to release my client, they would tell them what should they do, should they cast them to prison straight without the court order.
“I have countless of people in the police custody that have spent beyond the stipulated time”, he submitted.
Barrister Tobi Ariremako is hopeful that there will be speedy resolution of all pending issues between the Ogun state Government and the JUSUN.
Ariremako believed the strike has frustrated many civil cases and to him, this has tampered with getting justice for the common man in the society.
He lamented that the strike has affected many criminal cases he has in the Ogun state court.
He added, “since vacation has ended, the only thing I hope for is a speedy resolution of all the pending issues between the Ogun state Government and the JUSUN staff. The reason for this is because there are lots of pending civil cases (Tenancy, Chieftaincy, Land and Fundamental Rights Enforcement related matters) before the Temple of Justice, which the on-going strike has frustrated because they were slated for dates immediately after the annual vacation.
“As to the cases we have in court which the ongoing strike has affected, I can only remember three but as to the cases we are yet to file which happen to be highly important too, I cannot count them.
“I believe that parties should be more realistic in their approach, having it at the back of their minds that, the Court is the last hope of a common man.”
….Opposition party knocks Abiodun
The Chairman of New Nigeria People’s Party, Olaposi Oginni who had about 20 unattended cases described the alleged lackadaisical attitude of the government as a means to stall the party from winning cases against the government on the recent Local Government election in the state.
Oginni who described the situation as pathetic said the party is presently waiting for the court to open so as to file additional 22 cases against the State government and the State Independent Electoral Commission over the last LG polls.
He however stressed that the continuous locking of the court is a deliberate attempt by the governor to “corner NNPP from claiming their stolen mandates”.
“It is a very sad situation, it is a kind of an occurrence that highly unexpected at this crucial moment of our political time especially in Ogun state shortly after the local government election when we aggrieved political parties especially NNPP went to court to make sure that we write the wrong without putting the laws into our hands.
“As a matter fact, it is very sad that the Judiciary which is the last hope of the masses is no longer active in Ogun state. We want to put the blame on the door of the governor of Ogun state because this agitation is Peculiar to Ogun state Judiciary.
“I want to say Governor Dapo Abiodun out of the fear of NNPP because they know they rob us, out of that fear, he is convenient with the closure of the court because he knows that we will win him in court”, Oginni submitted.
… Dapo Abiodun buries head on father’s burial arrangement, looks away
For more than a month after the announcement of the death of Governor Abiodun’s father, condolence visits, preparations for the laying to rest of late Emmanuel has been the most important activity of the Ogun state government.
PLATFORM TIMES observed that government activities were partially shut as concentration was more on the Iperu home of Abiodun where dignitaries flooded everyday to console with the governor over lost of his father.
For a month and half before governor Abiodun’s father was finally laid to rest last week, agitations, protests, strike have all been met with no resistance or negotiations from the government.
The strike by judicial workers was also allegedly unattended to by the government. PLATFORM TIMES observed that no official response has been made in regards to the strike action.
The state secretary of JUSUN, Olabisi Adekanbi who spoke with PLATFORM TIMES claimed the meeting they supposed to have with government was postponed due to the state programme which is suspected to be the burial of Abiodun’s father.
Adekanbi insisted that the judicial workers are asking for their legitimate rights and won’t back off untill their demands are met.
She described the attitude of the government as deliberate attempt to stop them from receiving what belongs to them.
She added, “No, government has not reached out to us ,we ought to have a meeting last week but they said they are doing state programme, so they postponed the meeting they said they will get back to us and they have not.
“We are not asking for additional salary increament, what we are asking for is our legitimate right.
“What ground does they want us to shift, because what happen is that they review our basic salary which is very legitimate and we ask them to restore it. They said they will restore it, they went ahead and review all the allowance the legitimate allowance when we are talking about salary you know that there will be rent, among other.
“We told them to do the needful, not that we are asking for any other thing so I am asking what type of ground did they want us to shift that is my problem with them.
“We have sat down with the government, that is why I am explaining to you, what happen is that they are not being prepared, they are not ready to do the needful, they are not ready to do what they ought to do.”
Speaking on the stall in justice, Adekanbi said it is injustice for government to maltreat the third arms of government.
She maintained ,”every activity of court is put on hold, we are concerned about it, we are talking about justice those people that are going to work there government is not being fair to them.
“Government is talking about corruption in the Judiciary, and they are not ready to do the needful, definitely they will be corrupt.
“You will tell the judiciary not to collect bribe and you are not ready to do the needful to them Bible said “give what belong to Cesar to Cesar, if they have done the needful, there is no reason for us to go on strike.”
But the state Attorney General and commissioner for Justice, Akingbolahan Adeniran lamented that the continuous stall in delivery of Justice in the state is a big challenge to the government.
Adeniran who believed the court is not supposed to be locked expressed readiness of the government to meet with ‘reasonable demands’ of the workers.
The commissioner for justice while speaking with PLATFORM TIMES revealed that the government is presently negotiating with the judicial workers.
He noted that the state government respects workers, hence, reason they have been paying salaries to judicial workers despite the strike.
In his words, “the matter is under negotiations between the judicial workers and government. The government is ready to meet with the demands to the extent that the demands are reasonable.
“Everyone has to look at matter critically, because there is a strike does not mean that government is the one at fault. So, I encourage you to look at the matter critically and not just jump to conclusion.
“Everybody just assume that government is wrong, ask around, ask for what they were getting before, ask for what they were getting now, ask for actual figures, ask for what they are getting now compare to what everyone is getting in every other state in Nigeria.
“The only state that gets more is Oyo State and that is only up to level 8, from level 9, Ogun State is the highest in the country.
“Ask if there is any delay in the payment of their salaries. As long as their demand is reasonable, we are not an unreasonable government.
“We respect workers right, we have not held any salaries since they started. We paid salaries on time, we are one of the few states in this country implementing minimum wage.”
Editor’s note: The names of victims used are not their real names. Their names were protected for some reasons.