How Judiciary is Being Crippled in Kogi State

In the last eight months, Kogi state judicial staff who, in the past, were the first among the civil servants to receive salary alerts at ...

In the last eight months, Kogi state judicial staff who, in the past, were the first among the civil servants to receive salary alerts at the end of every month, had in recent times been lamenting  non-payment of their salaries for months.
Blueprint encounter with few of the staff shows that the workers are currently facing a precarious situation especially in terms of feeding, education and access to quality healthcare.
Some judicial staff bare their minds
One of the staff who pleaded anonymity told Blueprint that the last time he was paid salary as a judiciary worker was in the month of June. According to him, since then to date, he has not received a dime before JUSUN embarked on strike four months ago.
According to him “We are passing through hell as a result of non-payment of our salaries. You can imagine that I have to plead with the proprietor of my children school every term in order to allow them into the school premises.
“I don’t have high blood pressure before this situation, but today I am managing ailment and there is no money to buy the drugs as at when due which means that anything can happen to me since my medication is not regular as directed by my physician.
Another staff who does not want his name in print for obvious reason said he was grossly indebted to the extent that nobody is willing to lend him money any more.
“The last time I got salary alert was in June 2018 and we are now in the month of March. As I speak to you now, I really don’t know what to do to fulfil my obligation as a father. Two of my children in the university were supposed to resume after the elections, I don’t know how they will go back to school. One is in Minna while the other is in Zaria. I am appealing to the governor to release money to the judiciary so that our salaries can be paid.”
Blueprint learnt that irked by the sorry situation, the state branch of JUSUN in December bought some food stuff on loan which was distributed to the workers to ameliorate their suffering.
Also the union a few weeks ago dragged the state governor and chief judge of the state, Hon Justice Nasiru Ajanah before the National Industrial Court in Lokoja over the non-remittance of funds due to the judiciary.
The union, however sought the intervention of the court, saying there has been no concrete effort by the state government towards the resolution of the strike action which was in its third months then.
In the originating summons filed at the court by counsel to the union, Chief U M Enwere, other defendants in the matter are the attorney-general of the state, the commissioner for finance, accountant-general, auditor-general, the grand khadi, the president of the customary court of appeal and the state judicial service commission.
The union asked the court to determine, among others, whether the state judiciary is not entitled as of the right amounts standing to its credit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state and payable to the heads of courts in line with Section 231(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Section 5 of the Kogi State Public Finance (Judiciary Special Provisions) Law No 6 of 1991.
The prayer of the union also sought to know whether the governor and his appointees joined in the case have the power or right to withhold judiciary’s funds and thereby failing in the payment of monthly salaries, allowances and emoluments of judiciary staff and whether the executive arm can place such conditions as staff screening, staff data capturing, table payment or any other condition as a prerequisite for the release of the funds without respect for the doctrine of separation of powers as envisaged by the constitution and Kogi State Public Finance Law.
The union also wants the court to determine whether the executive has the constitutional right to usurp the powers of the commission by scheming to take over payment of judiciary staff salaries and other emoluments without reference to and approval of the commission or whether on the other hand the chief judge and other heads of courts have received any subvention since July 1, 2018 and have refused to pay the salaries and other emoluments of staff.
Expectedly, in the affidavit deposed to by the chairman of the union, Comrade Emmanuel Waniko, he declared that as at December 2018, after being owed salary arrears for six months, the workers could no longer afford to transport themselves to work neither were they credit worthy.
He said the judiciary was on the verge of collapse as he noted that there is no fund to procure stationery or run generators and the offices.
According to him, the strike became inevitable when the attention of the executive was drawn to the poor state of the judiciary and was told that the staff must first submit themselves to a screening and table payment as a condition for the continuous funding of that arm of government without recourse to extant laws of the land.
Reacting to the suit, Gov Bello, during a broadcast to the people ahead of the state assembly election a few days ago, said the refusal of the leadership of JUSUN to forward their staff payroll to the pay parade is the reason for the stalemate.
According to him “I have pleaded unsuccessfully with them for months now to do the needful and spare their innocent members of this trauma.
“The Kogi State House of Assembly has also tried to intervene only to be stopped by injunction from the judiciary curiously obtained while courts claimed to be on strike. I have petitioned the Chief Justice of Nigeria to intervene since November last year, but we are yet to receive any feedback.”
Legal icon speaks
Commenting on the face-off, a legal luminary, Chief Ogwu James Onoja (SAN) said the constitution is very clear about the Principle of Separation of Powers, lamenting that what is happening in the state is an attempt by the state government to emasculate the judiciary to bring them to total subjugations in this era of political time where we need an independent judiciary to mediate in a political cases that will still end in the judiciary.
“The issue we have now is that we have a state government who wants to dictate to the judiciary in terms of how salaries should be paid which the chief judge had resisted.
“One cannot imagine a government planning a table payment for judges and other staff of judiciary and the chief judge said it is not possible because the judiciary is supposed to be independent in order to discharge justice on behalf of the ordinary man because judiciary is between the ordinary man and the government.
“So if the judiciary have to queue to collect salary from government, then it will not be healthy to our democracy. If the judiciary has to go cap in hand to beg for its entitlement from the executive, then the judiciary will not be able to take a stand in the interest of justice.
“This action will not favour the development of our legal system and it will not also favour the hope in judiciary that we are all looking up to. It is now up to people to rise in support of judiciary for the purpose of our independence because the judiciary’s independence is our own independence from the tyranny of the executive.
By and large, the suit is already in court but no date has been fixed for hearing and while it lasts, the suffering continues.

Credit: Blueprint

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ANYIGBALEFT: How Judiciary is Being Crippled in Kogi State
How Judiciary is Being Crippled in Kogi State
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