On Tuesday, 2nd April, 2019, the media, especially the social media, was awash with the report of the recommendation of the Kogi State House of Assembly to His Excellency on the Hon. Chief Judge, content of which we are yet to know. Today, the news reportage in most traditional media didn’t come to us as a surprise. It was expected following the events occurring in Kogi State in the last 72 hours.
Within this period, the leadership of the Kogi State branch of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) had protested against the plot by the state governor, His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, and the Kogi State House of Assembly, to oust the Chief Judge of the state, Hon. Justice Nasiru Ajanah. Despite the media report of the denial by Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, Media Assistant to the governor, who even accused the judiciary of peddling rumors, JUSUN’s fears were confirmed by the macabre dance reportedly displayed by the Kogi State House of Assembly yesterday through its speaker, Rt. Hon. Mathew Kolawole.
This development has necessitated our call for caution and restraint on the part of the executive and legislative arms of Kogi State government to avoid over heating the polity. We make this submission reliant on the subsisting order of the Koton-karfe division of the High Court of Kogi State which ordered the three arms of government in the state to maintain the status quo ante belum on 13th December, 2019.
If it should be contemplated that any of the heads of the three arms of government in Kogi State would ever disobey any court order or contravene provisions of the constitution, the leadership of the judiciary would definitely not be counted among. This is the more reason why His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello and Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly would have cautiously abided by their oaths of office to uphold and defend the constitution which they swore allegiance to.
The report purportedly presented to and acted upon by the Assembly remains only within its purview and probably that of the executive. While neither the Hon. Chief Judge nor Chief Registrar of the High Court received any correspondent not to talk of appearing before any House Committee to defend themselves against any allegation, even if trumped up, before and since the court order was issued, his lordship takes exception to the use of such words as “gross misconduct” in reference to him. We’re very sure that the framers and users of this phrase that is capable of tarnishing the reputation and image of the Hon. Chief Judge know the implication and likely consequence of any malign against the Hon. Chief Judge over unsubstantiated allegations.
His lordship, Hon. Justice Nasiru Ajanah, urges the public to be calm as the judiciary of the state is yet to be officially communicated with the details of what transpired in the Kogi State House of Assembly yesterday. However, going by media reports, we learnt that the Speaker asked the executive to commence payment of judiciary workers. For us, this is the only appreciable outcome of the sitting of Kogi State House of Assembly yesterday. We appreciate that, for the first time, since the Judiciary Staff Union of Kogi State declared its industrial action four months ago, and since the subventions of the state judiciary have been accumulating and resulting in nine months unpaid salaries of Kogi Judiciary Staff, the state Assembly has shown that it was aware of the financial stifling of the state’s judiciary by the executive. Directing the release of Kogi State Judiciary’s subventions would have been more appropriate had the State Assembly realized it is an independent arm of government.
It is however either that the State Assembly is outrightly claiming ignorance of the principle of separation of powers when it directed that the judiciary staff salaries be paid by the executive, which will be unfortunate, or it is deliberately being mischievous in view of its conspiracy with the executive to harangue the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). It is most likely the same reason or because the Hon. Chief Judge was, and is still their target, that they forgot that the Chief Registrars, with the same status as Parmanent Secretaries in the Civil Service, are the Accounting Officers in the judiciary and not the Chief Judge or the heads of our other courts.
The only thing that is paramount to the judiciary at the moment is how our staff would be delivered from their present salary agony which they have never witnessed in the past. If Kogi State House of Assembly were passionate as we are about this, achieving this objective would have dominated their deliberation instead of dissipating energy over a constitutional nullity.
We urge all security agencies in the state to continue to professionally curtail lawlessness and abuse of the Nigerian constitution as critical stakeholders in the dispensation of justice in Kogi State.
The Judiciary under the leadership of his lordship, Hon. Justice Nasiru Ajanah, the Chief Judge of Kogi State will continue to strive to ensure the protection of the integrity of the Nigerian Judicial system. It is only by so doing that judgments emanating from our courts would not be suspected to have been passed in favour of individuals or groups either in the executive or legislature that will be posing as our pay-masters.
His lordship urges judiciary workers and the general public to remain calm and await the outcome of the case between Kogi State Judiciary and the other two conspiring arms of government – the executive and the legislature – upon which the above-mentioned interim order was given in December 2018.
Saqeeb Saeed, Snr. Information Officer, Kogi State Judiciary