The striking Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria has lambasted Chief Judges in the country for collecting luxury cars from governors as gifts, adding that such Chief Judges cannot speak the truth to power as the governors are their benefactors.
JUSUN Treasurer, Jimoh Alonge, spoke on Wednesday while featuring on PUNCH Online interview programme, The Roundtable.
Judiciary workers three weeks ago embarked on the indefinite nationwide strike in protest against the denial of the judiciary its constitutionally guaranteed financial autonomy which was also affirmed by a Federal High Court in January 2014.
But according to Alonge, despite the court judgment, the governors and the accountant-general of the federation have not complied with the 2014 judgment.
Alonge stressed that money meant for the judiciary should be given to the National Judicial Council by the Federal Government for onward disbursement to judicial workers in states. “Judges are paid from NJC but other judicial workers are at the mercy of the governors which is not supposed to be so,” Alonge stated.
He said the governors have become so powerful that they decide when and who to pay salaries, noting that the money from the centre is for states which comprised of the executive, legislature, and the judiciary.
According to Alonge, Ondo, Edo, Ebonyi, and Jigawa States have been withholding judicial workers’ salaries for more than eight months now for demanding judicial autonomy.
The JUSUN official, therefore, vowed that the judicial workers are resolute and are going to continue the strike until the day they pay those monies to NJC account. He also said the workers will take their demonstrations to the US and UK Embassies in Nigeria to express their displeasure.
Alonge, who said there are issues in Nigeria because the three arms are not working, noted that the Lagos State Government has not granted autonomy to the judiciary contrary to reports.
He said, “The first time we heard of Lagos trying to open the gate, I personally went to Lagos and I met with the management of the judiciary and I asked them a single question: where do your salaries come from? They said from the Ministry of Finance and I asked them, ‘Is that autonomy?’
“I wonder if a CJ can come out after his car is being given to him by the governor, his rent, his houses are being given by the governor and such will come out after being dashed all the gifts and say that is autonomy. That is not autonomy. Autonomy says money meant for the judiciary should be deducted as such to the NJC for onward disbursement and that is not done anywhere in this country.
“For a governor to dash vehicles, that is not what we are asking for, we are saying that what is mine should be given to me, let me spend it the way I can. It is not true that Lagos is complying with judicial autonomy. Autonomy is different from when a governor is friendly and good governor but that does not mean he is complying with judicial autonomy.”
Efforts by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige; and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to broker peace in order for the judicial workers to shelve their strike have proved abortive in the last couple of weeks as police cells and prisons get overcrowded daily with the continued closure of courts in the country.