Succor seems imminent for thousands of unpaid court workers in Kogi State as the National Industrial Court of Nigerian (NICN) in Abuja has ordered Governor Yahaya Bello and others to release forthwith funds due to the states judiciary, which were withheld since July 2018.
Justice Edith Agbakoba, in a judgment, also ordered the states Chief Judge and other heads of courts in the state to immediately begin payment of salaries, allowances and emoluments owed to court workers on their receipt of funds from the executive arm of government.
The judgment is on a suit filed by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) against the Kogi State governor and eight others.
The others are the Attorney-General, Kogi State, Commissioner for Finance, Accountant-General, Auditor-General, the Chief Judge, the Grand Kadi, President, Customary Court of Appeal and the Judicial Service Commission.
The plaintiff said its members in Kogi State have not been paid since July 2018, owing to the failure of the state government to release funds due to the judiciary from the Consolidated Revenue Funds of the state, from which salaries and other payments are made to court workers.
Justice Agbakoba, in the judgment delivered on June 3, 2019, a copy of which The Nation sighted in Abuja yesterday, declared as a violation of sections 121(3) of the Constitution and 5 of the Kogi State Public Finance (Judiciary Special Provisions) Laws No. 6 of 1991 the failure of the first to fifth defendants to release to heads of courts funds due to the judiciary from which the salaries, allowances and other payments are to be made.
The first to fifth defendants are the governor, the Attorney-General, Finance Commissioner, Accountant-General and Auditor-General.
Justice Agbakoba held that the first to fifth lacked the power to withhold court workers salaries and other entitlements which are payable from any amount standing to the credit of the Kogi State Judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state.
The judge, particularly ordered: he 1st – 5th defendants are hereby directed to pay forthwith, the arrears of salaries, allowances and emoluments of the members of the claimant from the N1, 529, 885, 261.92 being eight months accumulated arrears standing to the credit of the said Judiciary from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State and payable directly to the heads of the courts from which salaries and emoluments of the members of the claimant ought to be paid for the past eight months since July 2018 to February 2019.
The 1st – 5th defendants whether acting by themselves, their agents, privies or servants, are by a perpetual injunction order of this court hereby restrained from continuing to withhold the monthly salaries, allowances and emoluments payable from subventions or amounts standing to the credit of Kogi State Judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Funds of the State and payable directly to the heads of the courts concerned in line with the provision of section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended).
Listed as the sixth to ninth defendants are the Chief Judge, the Grand Kadi, the President, Customary Court of Appeal and the Judicial Service Commission.
Author: Eric Ikhilae, Abuja