The Chief Judge of Kogi State, Hon. Justice Nasiru Ajanah, has pleaded with the state’s branch of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) to sheath their sword while also urging the Governor of the state, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, to honour agreements reached with peace-brokers who have intervened in the judiciary-executive faceoff.
The CJ made the appeal when he received the report of the meeting held between the Judicial Service Commission and the consultant appointed by the executive to join with the JSC on the conduct of the biometric data capturing of judiciary workers in the state.
Justice Ajanah pleaded to JUSUN when told of the position held by the union during the course of the two-day meeting held at the conference room of the judiciary headquarters in Lokoja.
JUSUN had insisted that judiciary workers in the state would not participate in the biometric data capturing exercise until all the outstanding 11 months salaries of its members were cleared or the sum of N1.5b owed the judiciary that the National Industrial Court ordered the executive to pay was paid.
However, before making the appeal, the CJ sought to know the position of the consultant and the representative of government on the knotty issue of judiciary subvention and the payment of salaries to workers.
It was after he was told that it was agreed by all stakeholders at the meeting that the judiciary would handle its finances, as prescribed by the constitution and the JSC would coordinate the exercise that he in turn asked the union to give the executive the benefit of the doubt and allow the exercise to commence.
He disclosed that he was toeing the line of peace and equally urging the union to do the same in order to be dishonorable over the agreements reached with two national bodies in the country so that the state judiciary would be noted for maintaining its integrity.
Addressing the union, he said: “Please recall that this crisis has caused the intervention of two notable national organs whose views and advices must be taken seriously in this country. They are the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the Progressives Governors’ Forum. I appreciate that after the visit made by a subcommittee of the NJC, you heeded their advice to suspend your strike even when you were still been owed and knew not when you will be paid.
“Secondly, we arrived at this juncture by virtue of the intervention of the delegation of the Progressives Governors’ Forum led by its Chairman, His Excellency, Alhaji Abubakar Bagudu, the Governor of Kebbi State.
Other members of his delegation were their Excellences, Alhaji Mai Mala Buni, the Governor of Yobe State and Alhaji Abubakar Muhammed, the immediate past Governor of Bauchi State.
“We had assured these groups when they sued for peace that we were going to bend backwards to accommodate their views. You have already demonstrated that readiness by making yourselves a part of this deliberation.
“You should therefore not be seen as a clog in the wheel of the window of opportunity to achieve the main objective of your struggles, the payment of your outstanding salaries and emoluments” he cautioned.
On the judgment secured by the union and other matters between the union and the state government still pending in courts, Justice Ajanah stated that the union’s sensitivity to the plight of its members should be an overriding factor of consideration as advised by the NJC.
He said under no condition should the judiciary be seen indulging in illegality but would always lead in encouraging and advocating for the observation of rule of law.
“In so far as we are all aware that the court has given judgment in your favour, the onus now rests on the defendants amongst who are us, the heads of your courts and the JSC.
“This effort, to my belief, is a step towards assuaging your sufferings and those of your families. You will agree with me that even the courts too have not in any way fared better during the period of this crisis but we must begin to find a way of resolving it.
“Even as we expect court processes to take their natural course, it is obvious that under no condition should the judiciary be seen to indulge in any form of illegality especially over court pronouncements. Instead, it must always lead in advocating and encouraging the observation of rule of law” he said.
While elaborating further on the meetings he had with the groups that intervened, the Chief Judge was optimistic that the executive arm would not renege on the agreements just as he counseled the governor of the state on the need to honour the agreements reached.
He said: “It is going to be one full year that you last received your salary if at the end of this month of July we are unable to resolve this matter. It is in the spirit of this stark reality that I am also urging the executive to do the needful by honoring the agreements reached with these groups.
“We agreed that the commencement of the exercise would not in any way hamper the payment of your salaries and I want to believe that Governor Yahaya Bello will not renege on that.
“So, I am pleading with you people to let us give the government and this group this honour especially since the JSC would be carrying out the exercise which is in compliance with your agitation.
“If neither your account number nor your Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) would be required for the conduct of the exercise, I think that should be enough to assure you of the security of your salaries and that there would be no table payment of your salaries. I am therefore urging you to allow us to put this behind us once and for all.”
Justice Ajanah, who is also the chairman of the Judicial Service Commission, was represented at the meetings with the consultant and other stakeholders by the President of the Customary Court of Appeal of the state, Hon. Justice Ibrahim Atadoga Shaibu, who chaired the sessions.
Justice Shaibu indicated in his report that it was vital for the Chief Judge to prevail on the union to allow the commencement of the exercise with the hope that the government will pay judiciary’s subventions to pay the workers’ arrears of salaries even while the exercise was ongoing.
The interactive meeting with the consultant had in attendance, the representatives of the management of the three courts in the state – the High Court, the Sharia Court of Appeal and the Customary Court of Appeal.
It also had the JUSUN leaders in attendance while the state executive arm of government was represented by the consultant, Mr. Bello Abdulrazaq and the SSA to the Governor on ICT, Mr. Ismaila Umar.
The government representatives also went with their report while the judiciary awaits government response on commencement date of the judiciary workers’ biometric data capturing exercise.