The attention of Kogi State Judiciary has been drawn to the press statement credited to Mr. Kinsley Fanwo, the direcor of media and publicity to the governor of Kogi State, in respect of the meeting that held between a sub-committee of the National Judicial Council (NJC), the executive and the Judiciary of Kogi State at the Government House, Lokoja, on Wednesday.
Kogi State Judiciary wishes to place on record that the content of the press release does not reflect the true position of what transpired in respect of the data capturing of the staff of Kogi State Judiciary.
Our understanding of the outcome of the interaction between this tripartite parties is that the Chief Judge of Kogi State should set up the data -capturing committee in conjunction with the executive arm.
The sub-committee expressed the hope that both the executive and the Judiciary would work together for amicable resolution of the matter at hand.
It must be expressly stated that the NJC has a standing procedural mechanism for addressing crisis of this nature and this visit or fact-finding mission to Kogi State is one of such. It is therefore erroneous to jump to conclusion or hastily declare the position of the NJC.
We will also wish to draw attention to the misleading information released by the same source on the eve of the visit. It is entirely untrue, the information peddled about the Hon. Chief Judge of Kogi State which somewhat reduces the agitation for payment of outstanding 10 months salaries by Kogi State Judiciary workers to the person of the Chief Judge.
The whole content of the article titled: “Nigeria: non-payment of salaries of judiciary staff of Kogi State: the true story” could not have been farther from the truth.
It is laughable that the state government has made the basic function of the state regarding its responsibilities to its practitioners, particularly the Chief Judge and head of the Judiciary, to the front burner over and above a serious matter relating to the payment of judiciary staff’s salaries.
It is mischievous to have listed the financial and material benefits that have accrued to the Chief Judge and the Judiciary under the present administration even without substantiable and verifiable evidence. The most sordid is the inflated amount spent by the Chief Judge when he sought medical treatment abroad. The humongous figure of N65m could only have existed in the concocted imaginations of Mr. Fanwo as there was no such amount released to the Chief Judge.
His lordship bore his moderate medical expenses but subsequently demanded a legitimate refund as a matter of right. And when it was done, it refunded in not less than three instalments after his full recovery despite securing approval for the release of the fund at the critical period of his ailment before embarking on the trip.
Secondly, reference to the purchase of vehicles for judges is even the most revealing of the lack of grasp with governance infrastructure by the government. Were the mouthpiece of the governor abreast with the requirements for appointment of judges by the NJC, he would have known that it is a right and not privilege for judges, and even magistrates, to be entitled to vehicles, conducive courts and offices as well as accommodation because of the sensitive nature of their jobs.
This jaundiced positions are only clearly tied to the refusal of the executive arm to comply with Section 121 (3) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) which guarantees the financial independence of the judiciary. Were it so, there would have been no recourse to the executive before the procurement of such important judicial needs. Purchasing 13 refurbished vehicles, in the name of new ones, for judicial officers numbering 29 in the state is a far cry from what is due to the judiciary. Infact, it is on record that the five-year-old Toyota Land Cruiser V6 meant for the Hon. Chief Judge was returned after we discovered that it was refurbished and had even covered more than 15,000km! We’re awaiting a replacement which hasn’t come till date.
Also, the expose on the process of arriving at the decision to embark on pay-parade or table-payment, as was stated by Mr. Fanwo, was never brought to the attention of the judiciary until our payroll was demanded. As mentioned in the statement, upon the conception of the idea, the executive only consulted the NLC, TUC and PSJNC. How these organs represent the Judiciary is still not clear to us as Mr. Fanwo correctly told the world that the first time the policy was made known to us was when we were asked to present our payroll without any clarification. Our immediate reaction was to request for reasons for the demand as we know that such is the exclusive responsibility of the Judicial Service Commission of the state.
This was our position prior to the interventional visit by the NJC. This position is however that of the leadership of the judiciary which enjoys the support of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) agitating for the payment of 10 months outstanding salaries.
Saqeeb Saeed, Snr. Information Officer, Kogi State Judiciary