Litigants, Lawyers Locked out of Premises in Abia

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Judiciary workers in Abia continued the nationwide strike on Monday, locking out lawyers and litigants from the various courts.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) correspondent who monitored the strike, reports that many litigants were seen at the of the judiciary complex in Umuahia, which was under lock and key, discussing the situation in groups.

Some of the litigants and lawyers, who spoke to NAN described the development as  ‘’disappointing’’ and ‘’embarrassing.’’

A litigant, Mr Bethel Eluwa, described the action by the judiciary workers as embarrassing, saying that it had caused many people a lot of inconvenience.

 ‘’I came for a case in the magistrate’s court but found out that the gate to the court premises is locked.’’

Other litigants, Mr Victor Onuoha and Mr Festus Onyemauwa, spoke in the same vein, arguing that the action would delay the dispensation of justice.

Some lawyers, who also came for pending cases, blamed the state and Federal Governments for allowing the dispute to degenerate into a major industrial action.

Chief Maurice Ucheji, a private legal practitioner in Umuahia, noted that the issues between government and the Judiciary Staff Union had lingered for long, citing the warning strike by the union last year to buttress his point.

Ucheji urged the state and Federal Governments to return to the negotiating table with the union leaders, in order to resolve the issues in dispute.

He noted that the demand by the workers were not outrageous, wondering why both the state and Federal Governments refused to oblige the union’s request.

He called for industrial harmony between labour and government for the nation to move forward., observing that incessant industrial disputes in the country had retarded the nation’s growth and development.

Reacting to the development, Mr Sam Ogbonna, who is on a six-week court placement at a Chief Magistrate’s Court at Olori in Ikwuano Local Government Area of the state, expressed regret that the action would affect his internship.

Ogbonna expressed support for the union’s demand for financial autonomy and independence of the judiciary, pointing that the nation’s judiciary had suffered undue executive interferences.

‘’Financial autonomy and independence of the judiciary would free the judiciary from executive interferences and ensure efficient and quick dispensation of justice in the country.’’

Another lawyer, Mrs Ify Ugwa-Mandi, however, noted that financial autonomy and independence of the judiciary would raise the cost of justice beyond the reach of the common man.

Ugwa-Mandi called on both parties in the dispute to resume negotiation with a view to finding a lasting solution to their differences.

An executive member of the Abia chapter of the union criticised the state and Federal Governments for failing to comply with a judgment of an 
Abuja High Court on financial autonomy and independence of the judiciary.

Speaking on condition of anonymity in an interview with NAN, the union leader said that by such non-compliance, the government was unwittingly encouraging anarchy in society.

He said: ‘’All the judiciary staff in Abia have joined their counterparts in the country for the strike and we will continue until we receive a counter directive from the national executive.’’


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