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Judicial workers’ strike stops election tribunals

Posted by By OUR REPORTERS on 2008/02/12 | Views: 267 |

Judicial workers’ strike stops election tribunals


Detained former Delta State Governor, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, was among the casualties of the nationwide strike embarked upon by the judicial workers as his bail application slated for determination before a Kaduna Federal High Court on Monday was adjourned indefinitely.

… Ibori’s hope dashed

Detained former Delta State Governor, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, was among the casualties of the nationwide strike embarked upon by the judicial workers as his bail application slated for determination before a Kaduna Federal High Court on Monday was adjourned indefinitely.

The striking workers under the aegis of Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) also halted the sittings at the Election Petition Tribunals including the presidential election tribunal hearing the petition brought by both the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari and his Action Congress (AC) counterpart, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar against the victory of President Umaru Yar’Adua in the April, 2007 election.

The striking workers were protesting against poor condition of service due to the failure of the federal government to implement the recommendation of the panel set up on judicial reform in 2001, which recommended uniform salary scheme for judicial workers across the federation.

Also, the workers are agitating for establishment of pension board for judicial staff and implementation of Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution as it relates to their welfare.
In Kaduna, Kaduna State capital, lawyers, litigants, traditional rulers and supporters of Ibori who came to court were all barred from entering the premises while Ibori and his co-accused person, Udoamaka Okonkwo were driven back to the prison at 9.44 am. It was apparent the court would not rule in the application for bail.

Before adjourning the matter, the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Shuaibu was said to have made contacts with his colleagues in other Federal High Courts, many of whom had also adjourned sitting indefinitely.

The Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Michael Aondoakaa (SAN) along with senior lawyers was caught in the strike as the protesting workers stormed the Court of Appeal, venue of the sitting of the presidential election tribunal. He appealed to the workers to sheathe their sword, while promising to convey their grievances to the appropriate authorities.
Activities at Lagos High Court, Ikeja and Lagos divisions were grounded by the judicial workers’.
Lawyers and litigants were caught unawares as the aggrieved workers locked out the judges.
Reports across the states showed that judicial activities including sittings at election petition tribunals were paralyzed.

In Osogbo, the Osun State capital, the striking workers locked out the judges and election tribunal members. Magistrate Courts were not left out as the workers joined forces to press home their demand for better welfare package.

JUSUN members in the sate stayed away from work in accordance with the directive from their National Executive Council (NEC).

Explaining the development, the state Vice Chairman of JUSUN, Mr Fatoke Emmanuel said the workers would not return to their duty posts until the government respects and honours their demand.
According to Emmanuel, JUSUN had earlier warned the government before the strike was called following the expiration of the ultimatum given.

He further explained that notice of the strike was served on the state governor, secretary to the state government, tribunals, chief judges, commissioner of police, director of State Security Services (SSS), the state Attorney General, the state chapter of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), House Committee on Judiciary and the Labour union.

In Ondo State, the strike also grounded judicial activities in the state capital, Akure and other parts of the state.

However, the sitting of the election petition tribunal was spared by the aggrieved workers following spirited appeal by the state chief judge, Justice Gladys Olateru Olagbegi.
In Ekiti State, the situation was not different as litigants and lawyers expressed shock and disappointment at the development.

The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the state chapter of JUSUN, Ayodele Adebayo blamed the strike on the Federal Government’s lopsided implementation of the white paper on judicial reforms panel.
He noted that it was the same white paper that was implemented for the police, and other formations and ministries, stating that it was JUSUN that fought for the justice sector.
In Awka, the Anambra State capital, the two election tribunals adjourned their sittings indefinitely following the industrial action embarked upon by JUSUN members. Some of the petitions before the tribunals have reached judgment stage.

In Oyo State, activities came to a standstill as the judicial workers joined their colleagues across the federation to embark on indefinite strike.
Investigation revealed that the workers embarked on the industrial action in compliance with a directive from their national headquarters.

The directives contained in a bulletin signed by JUSUN President and Secretary Mr Usamatu Aminu and Mr I.M Adetola respectively directed the workers to stay away from their duty posts from Monday until further notice.

Speaking to journalists, the vice president of JUSUN, (South East), Lambert Onuoha who led the protest in Abuja said that the workers had been on the issue for the past three years and would not understand the reason government had refused to meet the demands, which, he said were small compared to what political appointees earn.

According to him: “For several years, our claims have not been paid. The federal government in 2001 set up judicial Reform Committee, headed by Justice Olufemi Ejiwunmi. A technical committee was also set up. A white paper was issued by the Presidency.

“The white paper has been partially implemented. The Nigeria Police and the Nigeria Prison Service have benefited from the implementation of the white paper.
“Judges have also been paid leaving only the workers.

“We threatened to go on strike in April last year but the Chief Justice of Nigeria appealed to us to shelve the strike because of the election. We honoured him and suspended the strike in the interest of the country. But after the election nothing was done.

“We issued another notice to them on the 19th of January 2008 that we would be embarking on strike if our demands are not met. The Nigeria Labour Congress also wrote them on our behalf. Up till now, we’ve not heard from them. The strike is indefinite.”

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.