GELE AGBAI, Owerri
The ongoing nationwide strike embarked upon by the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) is biting hard on lawyers especially those in private legal practice.
Equally badly hit are accused persons awaiting trial and litigants who cannot seek redress talk more of receiving remedy for wrongs done to them.
Our findings revealed that the hardest-hit among lawyers are their junior colleagues, who depend on court appearance fees to eke out a living.
Things are really getting tough for them as they are finding it difficult remaining afloat and picking their bills.
An Owerri-based female lawyer, Barrister Chinyere Iwunna told our correspondent that it has not been easy grappling with the challenges exacerbated by the strike which is now into its fifth week.
Barr. Iwunna however supports the strike like the umbrella body of lawyers, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), more so as it is geared towards achieving autonomy for the judiciary.
She said; “The JUSUN strike is lasting longer than expected and the excruciating effects on legal practice cannot be overstated.
“Having the courts under lock and key for over five weeks now especially for those of us in private practice is no fun. Worst hit are the young lawyers who depend on the court appearance fees to take care of their daily expenditure.
“It is actually not been palatable but an average lawyer desires autonomy for the judiciary. In fact, our umbrella body, the Nigerian Bar Association supports the JUSUN strike because we believe it is a just cause.
“We demand that government at all levels should obey the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which is our grundnorm, this is not too much a demand!”
Also speaking, Barrister Emeka Ihejirika corroborated Iwunna’s stance that the strike has dealt a big blow on lawyers.
Ihejirika added that the strike had also compounded the conditions of litigants and persons awaiting trial.
Ihejirika, who is based in Owerri, Imo State, said besides depriving lawyers of their means of livelihood, it has also deprived them of the joy of defending and prosecuting matters in court.
He noted that some lawyers have caved in to despondency which might culminate in depression.
Barr Ihejirika said;
“The ongoing JUSUN strike has not only impacted lawyers, but also litigants and persons awaiting trial negatively too.
“With respect to lawyers, aside depriving them of their means of livelihood, it has also deprived them of the joy derived from defending and prosecuting matters in court. Owerri is not a commercial city, so you can’t say corporate law practice thrives here.
“Most lawyers in Owerri are purely litigation lawyers hence they are deprived of their means of survival and rendered redundant too. Some lawyers have given in to despondency which may culminate in depression.
“On the other hand, accused persons awaiting trial have their rights abused, as they spend more time in prison without speedy trial as envisaged by the constitution.
“In so doing, some prisoners might even be in prison way past the supposed sentence attached to the crime they committed. Further, police cells are left congested, as suspects cannot be arraigned in court for their alleged crimes, thus abusing the rights of such suspects.
“However, in civil cases, litigants are left without remedy to their wrongs, which ordinarily would not have been the case. For instance, there are cases that would need urgent remedy such as injunctions, but such wrongs will have to continue, without remedy, as courts are not in session, thus defeating the age-long maxim “Ubi jus,Ibi remedium”… there’s no wrong without a remedy”
JUSUN, which is demanding the autonomy of the country’s judiciary has vowed that the strike would continue for as long as it takes the authorities to accede to its demand.