Kogi State branch of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) feliicitates with our members, citizens and Nigerians as we celebrate 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 posibility 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 wth 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 povision, 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 caĺl and suspended the strike but only at the level of federal judiciary while directing our state branches to negotiate with our respective governors.
On our part, then SSG, Prof. Jegede, responsibly convened a meeting under the chairmanship of then NBA Chairman, Mr. J. A. Akubo with the former Attorney-General, Mr. Joe Abraham (SAN), the Head of Service, Dr. Moses Atakpa and ourselves on February 9, 2015 in his office. We resolved at the reconciliatory meeting that whatever fund that accrues to the state would henceforth be shared on prorata basis with the judiciary, bearing in mind that the constitution provides that all funds due to the judiciary be paid directly to heads of courts.
Going forward, much as we still resist exchanges of words with His Excellency, we must also draw attention to the fact that the judiciary was forced to continue its strike in the state even as we went into the 2015 elections .
While matters requiring urgent judicial intervention like the unexpected demise of His Excellency, Alhaji Abubakar Audu, the former governor of Kogi State, was handled at the federal judiciary, the event of the administration of oath of office on the incumbent governor on 27th January, 2016 received the immediate response of the leadership of Kogi State judiciary despite our being on strike. The Hon. Chief Judge, in his wisdom, rallied his brother Judges, Management and other supporting staff of the judiciary and administered the oath of office on the governor our being on strike notwithstang. His lordship went beyond taking this patriotic step by subsequently prrevailing on JUSUN to give the new administration the benefit of doubt when pleading with us to suspend the strike.
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 purnish 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.
In addition, it needs be pointed out that in describing workers of the Stste Judiciary as “our civil servants”, the speech writers of the governor manifested utter ignorance of the operation of the principle of separation of powers, secured under the Constitution. Section 197(1c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) creates the Judicial Service Commission which regulates the affairs, employment and discipline of workers of the Judiciary and separate them from the core civil service.
For the purpose of clarity and misinterpretation, the Constitution elaborated further in Section 318 where it clearly categorise judiciary workers as public servants distinctive of civil servants.
Let it be said, therefore, that by these Constitutional provisions, workers of the Judiciary are not servants of the Executive but that of the Judiciary.
Therefore, the point of confusion is the comparison between the House of Assembly and the judiciary where the governor found respite in expecting a master-servant relationship with the judiciary may not stand.
So, ignoring the law that says subvention be paid to the judiciary which the Assembly doesn’t have is a disservice to the principle of mutual understanding and respect between the three arms of government.
That the Assembly workers were employed by the state’s Civil Service Commission and deployed as civil servants to the House of Assembly while the Judicial workers are employed by the Judicial Service Commission is responsible for why workers are not posted to the judiciary by the civil Service Commission from its pool.
To better elucidate the intention of the Nigerian state, the condition of service for judiciary workers was duly authorized and passed into law while the House of Assembly workers still use the civil service rules.
It is interesting to note that the Houses of Asembly were only recently included in the autonomy provided in Section 121(3) of the constitution which the judiciary has been enjoying since 1999.
It must be noted that despite the governor signing the House of Assembly Service Commission bill none has been constituted up till now which still makes House of Assembly employees civil servants unlike the judiciary workers.
His Excellency and the Attorney-General should always endavour to properly educate the public and the House of Assembly on these statutes. The truth will become clearer when the House of Assembly realises that it is being asked to embark on an illegal exercise.
Aside the foregoing, it is sad too that His Excellency also described the notions of independence of the Judiciary and its fiscal autonomy as “dodgy” and “legalistic”. In all civilised world, the principle of independence of the judiciary, which embodies fiscal autonomy, is acknowledged, respected and venerated. It constitutes the pillar and bulwark of democratic practices and the rule of law rather than being seen as “dodgy” and “legalistic” whenever it is mentioned.
Finally, it is oexpedient 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 21stC.
Comradep Emmanuel Waniko, Chairman, JUSUN, Kogi State.Share this on WhatsApp