The ongoing and prolonged strike action in Cross River State by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, JUSUN and especially the propriety of the strike is now a subject of litigation.
I am conspicuously aware of the suit No. FHC/CA/C5/67/2015 before the Federal High Court, FHC sitting in Calabar; the matter is “sub judice” and therefore not open to any unguarded public comment.
As the judicial battle lasts however, it is hoped that the very sensible and well informed Senator Ben Ayade will upon his inauguration on 29th May, 2015 as Governor of Cross River State, swiftly intervene and proactively undertake to comply with the valid and subsisting judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja earlier delivered in favor of the JUSUN and thereby bring to an end the prolonged strike action by the judiciary workers, of course it is their inalienable right.
This is what the incumbent governors of over 21 States in the Federation, including the FCT, have done in their respective States which the present administration in Cross River State failed to do, or rather refuse to imbibe.
I am convinced that unlike the puerile and insensitive Governor Imoke, an ebullient and conscientious Governor Ayade will most certainly address the strike issue in the State.
Owing to the fact that Imoke is a certified and practicing lawyer, one would have imagined why he has refused to look into the plight of JUSUN; the people that run the courts selflessly. It is without doubt that without the court justice can never be found or attained elsewhere, imagine the piled up cases before the state courts.
Nevertheless, come July 2015 (about 5 weeks from now) the courts in Cross River State are yet again going to be shut though not necessarily for another industrial action, but this time around in line with the tenor of Order 3, Rule 4(2) of the High Court of Cross River State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2008.
The said Order 3 of the Cross River High Court Rules provide thus: 4 (2) “There shall be an annual vacation of the court not exceeding eight weeks beginning in the month of July as the Chief Judge may by notification in the Gazette appoint.” Also Order 3 Rule 4 (1) provides: “Subject to the directions of the Chief Judge, sittings of the High Court for the dispatch of civil matters will be held on every week day except: …(d) during the long vacation.”
It is not open to argument that the Cross River State judiciary has over the years consistently and religiously observed the annual vacation in line with the above position.
However, given the exigencies of the present times, it is expedient that the Chief Judge of Cross River State suspend the 2015 annual Court vacation in the State.
The Chief Judge of Cross River State is eminently vested with enormous discretionary power to determine the time/period of Court sittings and especially the power to override the annual court vacation when circumstances demand.
I am fortified in my position in view of the provision of Order 3 Rule 3 of the CRS Rules which states: “The several offices of the court shall be open at such times as the Chief Judge shall direct.” Even the earlier quoted Order 3 Rule 4 (2) of the said Rules is subjected to the power of notification in the Gazette by the Chief Judge.
The resultant consequences of the closure of courts in Cross River State since December, 2014 can never be gainsaid. Indeed our police cells and prison yards are congested as suspects can no longer be arraigned.
In tenancy relationships, there’s widespread illegal holding over by mischievous tenants who have now taken advantage of the strike by refusing to pay rent nor quit, having known there is no court to evict them.
Also since the closure of courts in December 2014, many families have been frustrated as they continue to wait in vain to obtain letters of administration of estate of their deceased family members and giving criminals the impunity to commit more crimes as they can easily bail themselves out of detention by the police.
The suspension of the judiciary strike in the State would no doubt flood the courts with numerous litigations on various subject matters. Therefore, rather than allow the courts proceed on a baseless two (2) month vacation, there is need for the C-J to suspend this year’s annual vacation and help decongest the already overloaded course lists in our courts. Let reason and public interest prevails.
Barrister Eno Iyamba is a practicing lawyer in Calabar with Basic Rights Counsel
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