The crisis between the Executive and Judiciary arms in Kogi State took a new turn on Tuesday as the State branch of the Judiciary Staff Union (JUSUN), dragged the governor of the state, Alhaji Yahaya Bello and the Chief Judge, Hon. Justice Nasiru Ajanah before the National Industrial Court sitting in Lokoja, the state capital, over unpaid salaries and non-remittance of funds due to the state judiciary.
Staff of the judiciary have been on strike since December last year over accumulated salary arrears of eight months.
The union has sought the intervention of the court as there has been no concrete effort by the state government towards the resolution of the strike action already in its third month.
In the originating summons filed at the court by counsel to the union, Chief U. M. Enwere. Other defendants in the matter are the Attorney-General of the state, the Commissioner for Finance, the Accountant-General, the Auditor-General, the Grand Kadi, the President of the Customary Court of Appeal and the state Judicial Service Commission.
The union is asking the court to determine among others whether Kogi State Judiciary is not entitled, as of right, amounts standing to its credit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state and payable to the heads of courts in line with section 231(3) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) and section 5 of the Kogi State Public Finance (Judiciary Special Provisions) Law No 6 of 1991.
The union also sought to know “Whether the governor and his appointees joined in the case have the power or right to withhold judiciary’s funds and thereby failing in the payment of monthly salaries, allowances and emoluments of judiciary staff and whether the executive arm can place such conditions as staff screening, staff data capturing, table payment or any other condition as a prerequisite for the release of the funds without respect for the doctrine of separation of powers as envisaged by the constitution the Kogi State Public Finance Law”.
The union also wants the Industrial Court to determine whether the executive arm of the state has the powers or constitutional right to usurp the powers of the Judicial Service Commission by scheming to take over payment of judiciary staff salaries and other emoluments without reference to and approval of the Judicial Service Commission or whether on the other hand the CJ and other heads of courts have received any subvention since 1st July, 2018 and have refused to pay the salaries and other emoluments of judiciary staff.
The union, therefore, wants the court to declare that subject to the provisions of the constitution and laws of Kogi State amounts standing to the credit of Kogi State Judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state be paid directly to the heads of courts in the state.
It also wants the court to declare that the executive lacks the power to withhold judiciary’s funds and the executive’s continued refusal to pay such funds due to the judiciary as unconstitutional, illegal, ultra vires, wrong, null and void and of no effect.
It asked for an order of the court to direct the full payment of the accumulated eight months subvention owed the three courts and the Judicial Service Commission and a perpetual injunction restraining the governor and his agents from continuing to withhold amounts standing to the credit of Kogi State Judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Funds of the State.
In addition, the union wants the court to restrain the executive from taking steps that tends towards usurping the powers of the JSC in terms of payment of emoluments and discipline of judiciary staff.
In the affidavit deposed to by the chairman of the union, Comrade Emmanuel Waniko, he declared that as at December 2018, after being owed salary arrears for six months, Kogi judiciary workers could no longer afford to transport themselves to work neither were they credit worthy.
He said the judiciary itself was on the verge of collapse as there was no fund to procure stationary or run generators and the offices noting that the strike action became inevitable when the attention of the executive arm was drawn to this poor state of the judiciary and was told that the staff must first submit themselves to screening and table payment as a condition for the continuous funding of the judiciary without recourse to extant laws of the federation and the state.
The court is yet to give a date for commencement of hearing of the matter.