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Following the accumulation of unpaid salaries in Kogi state, there is impending crisis of confidence in the state as the staff union of the judiciary arm of the state, the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), is on collision course with the state government. It said it will maintain its stand on compliance with the constitutional provisions that prescribes financial independence for state judiciaries.
Comrade Emmanuel Waniko, Chairman of the state’s branch of JUSUN, revealed yesterday that the state government’s decision to embark on table payment of part of the arrears of salaries owed the state workers may have sparked the row.
He also indicated that the government’s refusal to agree an upward review and timely remittance of the age-long monthly subvention due to the state judiciary was another factor in the looming crisis between the union and the managements of the three courts in the state.
The combined management of the state’s High Court, Sharia Court of Appeal and Customary Court of Appeal were reportedly requested by the union to explain the modalities and time of payment of the five months outstanding salaries owed staff of the judiciary. The meeting was however deadlocked after a failed attempt by the managements to pacify the growing agitations of the leadership of the union.
Other sources close to the union have also stated that the leadership of the union was not comfortable with the disclosure that the state government had requested the management of the courts to furnish it with the monthly salary payroll of the judiciary preparatory for the judiciary’s compliance with the state’s ongoing table payment of part of the arrears of salaries owed the state workers which also serves as another round of staff screening exercise embarked upon by the state government.
In a swift reaction to the development, the union said it frowned at the attempt of the executive to muscle the state’s third arm of government against the constitutional provisions that guarantees the financial independence of the judiciary. It said the development contravenes the recent legislative amendment to the constitution assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari which strengthens the financial autonomy of state judiciaries and legislatures.
Comrade Waniko further disclosed that JUSUN was bent on taking legal and other constitutionally acceptable measures to ensure that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not in any way subverted. He said JUSUN would not relent as the struggle borders on the welfare of staff which includes salaries and the provision ofconducive working environment.
The JUSUN chapter of the state insists that the staff of the state judiciary have suffered unacceptable subjugation and repression in the hands of the executive arm of the state for too long and can no longer bear it. The union said the financial negligence of the judiciary over time, especially in the last three years, has reduced the judiciary and its staff to public ridicule despite the enormity of its constitutional and societal roles. It said budgetary allocations have been denied the institution over decades while infrastructural projects and human capital development in form of training and retraining of staff were lacking. Promotions and other workers’ entitlements have received no attention over the years due to lack of financial releases, it added.
The union also cited the judiciary’s inability to catch up with the trend in the nation’s judiciary’s ICT compliance effort as a major setback in the administration of criminal justice in the state just as it states that the inability of the judiciary to embark on the periodic prisons’ decongestion exercise and observance of new legal year inauguration and even Assizes were aberrations hampering smooth justice delivery system in the state. It said a combination of these have kept the public at abeyance with the social responsibility and policy direction of the state judiciary in comatose.
The union said it was in consultation with its stakeholders preparatory to making its position known to the management of the courts and the state government over the nonpayment of arrears of staff salaries and the pseudo-screening table-payment policy of the state. While stating that the state’s judiciary has regularly crosschecked its staff disposition through internal scrutinizing mechanism that has sanitized its nominal roll over the years, it sees the table payment policy of the government as a setback as it said the exercise is another form of staff screening by the executive arm of government that is capable of destabilizing the comprehensive data depth of the judiciary given the recent experience of civil servants in the state.
When contacted for confirmation of the development, Saqeeb Saeed, the Information Officer of the state judiciary declined comments saying that the situation was still being studied by the management of the courts before taking a final position.
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