On 2nd January 2015, the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) called an indefinite nationwide strike of all judiciary staff, the last resort in a bid to compel the Federal Government to comply with the Court’s decision in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/66/2013; JUSUN vs. National Judicial Council, ordering that funds accruing to the judiciary from the Federal Account be henceforth paid directly to the heads of courts of the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory. Below are 7 likely fallouts of this –
- “Wrong place at the wrong time abi? Na so.” *yinmu*
Justice delayed is justice denied, and no mistake! Whether your doppelganger (look-alike) stole bread in the market, or you had a sordid affair with the local Inspector’s wife, if you’re in jail waiting to post bail, think again. The nightmare is just beginning. Get comfortable…or…UN-comfortable as the case may be. You may be staying a while.
- Waiting for trial? You’re on a LOOOOOONG thing”
For two straight days, John Bull and Dauda, the two ‘presidos’ of your cell have made your stay…interesting. There are rats, there are mosquitoes, and you are faced with the shocking realisation that hypothermia is possible in this hot country! You actually have an excellent lawyer, one who might be able to get you off the hook…IF he could just get you a trial date. DARN! The ingenious defence your lawyer has somehow managed to conjure won’t see the light of day for quite some time. Please refer to No.1 above.
- “Default Penalties: To pay, or not to pay?”
At court, every move a lawyer makes – when to file, when to respond, when to serve – is timed. If he exceeds the stipulated time, he just applies for an extension, right? WRONG! What happens if time runs out during the strike? Does he still apply for an extension of time? If so, what reasons does he give? Whose inadvertence (mistake) should the court excuse? Does he pay penalties? If he decides (rightly so, in my opinion) not to, can the Registry lawfully reject his filing? If the Registry refuses, what’s his next move? So many questions! Arrggghhhh!!!! *pulls out hair*
- “I just got back…for good”
You escaped the shores of our blessed country, and have settled somewhere on the Continent, in the Carribean, the Orient or maybe further away than that. One day, you receive a subpoena, summoning you home to give crucial evidence in a case for/against your brother/mother/godmother/company/uncle’s sister/doctor/babalawo etc. and here you are, prepped and ready to destroy the opposition’s case. What now? Just pop back home for a bit? I think not. The strike could end at any time and your absence from court might just put the case in jeopardy, or worse, be deemed contempt, putting you at risk of jail-time the minute you return.
- “Adjourned to the 29th of Never”
Any Nigerian lawyer worth his salt knows that the Court Registries have backlogs – files awaiting re-assignment, rulings that have not been delivered (or written, for that matter, in some cases), and last but not least, suits awaiting adjournment. What is another likely impact of the strike? That’s’ right – MORE files awaiting re-assignment, rulings that have not been delivered/written and suits awaiting adjournment. Good luck with that, guys!
- “Professional fees, but UN-professional expenses?”
Most firms take an initial deposit on account and then settle the balance upon conclusion of a lawsuit. Expenses, however, accumulate during the course of the suit, and may be calculated based on a number of factors including lawyers’ attendance at court. So the question is – Should lawyers still claim their expenses for court attendance even though they KNOW the courts aren’t sitting?
- “Winner takes (and keeps) all”
It’s election season again, or for some lawyers, early Christmas. Every election seems to breed more disgruntled politicians, claiming they won the primaries within their respective parties. Lawyers rub their hands in glee, knowing fully well that the egoes of those passed over will inevitably kick in, the court battles will begin, and the money will follow. Well, sorry lawyers, no Christmas for you this term. And as for the petitioners, we are equally sorry. For if you lost the primaries, you lost FOR REAL. No take-backsies!
Now, while I acknowledge that this industrial action may bode serious and detrimental implications and effects, I think looking on the lighter side of things helps. So here’s hoping the strike ends soon and that you at least got a giggle out of this.