By Wale Ibrahim, Lokoja
The lingering crisis between the Kogi State Government and its arm of Judiciary may be far from being end as Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), have drawn a battle line, vowed not to call of the on going strike by its members.
This was contained in a statement made available to the newsmen in Lokoja over the weekend, stated that it would not join issue with the state government of the current face off between the two arms of government.
The statement which part of it read thus, Kogi State branch of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) has felicitated with its members, citizens and Nigerians over as celebration Christmas and look forward to a prosperous New Year in advance.
“We do this even as we contend with the pains of hunger and deprivations on the part of our members who are passing through acute hardship at the moment.
“We’re following, with keen interest, this yuletide season of heckling and jeers using one of the fundamental avenues of our nascent democracy, budget presentation.
“We’re not, in the tradition and dignity of the judiciary, going to join issues with the executive arm of government. We’re however constrained by the expediency of straightening records. The purported impasse between the executive and the Judiciary arms of government was blown out of proportion by the SSG, Mrs. Folashade Ayoade Arike, who preferred to refer our industrial action to the state House of Assembly. She did not exhaustively exploit the possibility of an amicable resolution of our refusal to to participate in the policy of table payment or pay parade.
“The singular act of the SSG’s petition against the Hon. Chief Judge and the Chief Registrar accounted for the suspicious plot of clamping down on the judiciary without provocation.
“For the records and the purpose of public education and posterity, it must be reiterated here that just as our current struggle predates the present administration of Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the governor of Kogi state, our determination to see the end of executive domination of the judiciary through financial strangulation will not waver.
“It would be recalled that the Judiciary of Kogi State, along with other states’ judiciary, secured a judgment of the Federal High Court in 2014 which ordered states to comply with the sections that guarantee the financial autonomy of the judiciary.
“It is heartwarming that His Excellency acknowledged that Kogi judiciary workers are experiencing, according to him, a “needless injury and sufferings” right now.
“We make bold to say that the plight of Judicial workers in the State is occasioned by the failure of the Governor to perform his constitutional duties of releasing funds due to the Judiciary to her as mandated under section 121(3) of the Constitution of Nigeria and the 1991 edict of Kogi State that prescribes releases of subvention to the judiciary, from which salaries are paid to judiciary staff.
“It is the refusal of almost all the state governors of the country to comply with this constitutional provision, and the judgment of 2014, that resulted in the JUSUN strike embarked upon on the eve of the 2015 general elections.
“However, owing to the responsiveness of the leadership of the judiciary to national issues, it prevailed on our leadership based on the sensitivity of the requirements of that election, to suspend the strike. JUSUN leadership heeded this call and suspended the strike but only at the level of federal judiciary while directing our state branches to negotiate with our respective governors.
“However, the present Attorney General had consistently rebuffed all attempts to remind government of our earlier agreement even as our salary arrears continued to accumulate up to this unbearable moment that we declared our ongoing strike.
“In order for us to also correct the wrong notion that we are fixated on the implementation of the provisions of the constitution, we must state that the value of democracy must never be lost on an institution like the judiciary, the only arm of government that survives even the worst form of military dictatorship, if we wish to be rightly recorded in history.
“JUSUN’s interest is in the payment of our salaries through our normal channel just like the NJC does to the Federal Judiciary workers notwithstanding all the commendable reforms so far introduced by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration without necessarily embarrassing or attempting to humiliate the leadership of the other arms of government.
“Even though we’re tempted to think that the attempt to mix up the matters in court is deliberately aimed at subjecting our members to further demeaning and avoidable hardship, since we’re hearing for the first time that our funds are lying in banks, we hope the executive will do the needful by paying us and allowing our Judicial Service Commission the free hand to recruit, investigate or punish any erring judiciary staff as contained in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“To say some staff of the Kogi judiciary are “genuine” therefore creates a credibility question on the Judicial Service Commission which is largely constituted by appointees of the executive.
“Finally, it is expedient to state that Judges are not unionists and cannot embark on strike actions. They are not members of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN). Judges’ courts are available to attend to urgent matters of extraordinary circumstances in times of strike actions and vacations just like that of January 27, 2016 described above. In short, describing an order of court duly obtained as “curious” casts an unexpected doubt on the sanctity of our courts and does not, in any way, measure with statesmanship in the 21st century,” the statement emphasized.
Meanwhile the State Governor Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello was said to have been looking for a way to settle the current impasse between the two arms of government to move state forward.
At the presentation of 2019 appropriation bill to Kogi State House of Assembly, Governor Yahaya Bello noted it has become imperative to talk about the lingering crisis between the executive and judiciary as result of order to screening of it staff which was rebuffed.
Governor Yahaya Bello stated that it will be a remiss for him to end his presentation without addressing needless injury and suffering of the civil servants who work in Judiciary are going right now because of the needless crisis foisted on the state by the Judicial arm.
He told the House Assembly members that it was a collective agreement signed with organized labour on the disbursement of last tranche of Paris club fund, saying that this state government embarked on table payment as most transparent methodology that the money reach only genuine and actual civil servants inform of salaries and pensions.
Bello added that the House encourage its staff to participate, stressing that the Judiciary refused to participate citing notions of independence and autonomy which are dodgy in law and worst extremely legalistic and were supported by Judiciary Union of Nigeria has has proceeded on an indefinite strike.