The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) has berated the governors of Kaduna, Plateau, Benue and Bayelsa States for allegedly withholding or deducting the salaries of judiciary workers for months.
Members of the union on Wednesday suspended their nationwide strike which they started on April 6 in agitation for the financial autonomy of the judiciary.
The strike paralysed court activities across the country for 64 days.
The union announced the suspension of the industrial action in a communique issued earlier at the end of its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting on Wednesday.
The communique announcing the suspension of the over-two-month-old strike was signed by the union’s Deputy President, Emmanuel Abioye, and General Secretary, Isiah Adetola.
JUSUN, in the communique, slammed Governors Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, Simon Lalong of Plateau, Samuel Ortom of Benue for allegedly withholding the salaries of the judiciary workers, and Governor Duoye Diri of Bayelsa State for deducting the salaries of its members in the state.
It asked the affected governors to reverse their actions.
“NEC-in-session condemns the actions of the governors of Kaduna, Plateau and Benue states for withholding the salaries of the judiciary in their various states for months and urges all governors involved to do the needful,” the communique read in part.
It added, “NEC-in-session frowns at the deduction of salary of JUSUN members of Bayelsa State and requests that the deducted sum be restored forthwith.”
When contacted on phone by our correspondent, Wednesday night, the Benue State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Michael Gusa, directed our reporter to his colleague at the Ministry for Finance, David Olofu.
However, in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday, Mr Olofu declined to comment on the veracity or otherwise of JUSUN’s claims.
Mr Olofu said, “You go and speak with the Chief Judge,” he said.
When this reporter pressed further by reminding Mr Olofu as the Finance Commissioner that it was within his purview to respond to issues on payment of staff salaries in the state, he retorted, “That is not how we operate. If I am the Commissioner for Finance, am I the Head of the judiciary?
“So, you go and ask the Chief Judge, (Benue State) if the judiciary’s salaries are being withheld or not,” Mr Olofu said.
On his part, the Commissioner for Information, Plateau State, Dan Manjang, denied JUSUN’s claim of withholding judiciary’s salaries by the state government.
He said, “All I know is that the (Plateau) state government is pressing for the financial autonomy of the judiciary and the legislature. We have already given local government autonomy.
“The governor (Simon Lalong) is in favour of financial autonomy for the two arms of government.
“The allegation that salaries of judiciary workers are being withheld is strange to us, because the governor has been up to date in salaries and pensions.
“Even in the last administration, those who were not paid for going on strike, have been paid by our administration.”
The Bayelsa State Commissioner for Finance, Ayuba Duba, and Chief Press Secretary to Governor Diri, Daniel Alabra, declined to comment on JUSUN’s allegation against the governor.
An official of the state government who pleaded not to be named because he had not been authorised to speak on the matter, admitted that there were discrepancies in the workers’ salaries.
But the official had no issues with the court workers.
“The Bayelsa State judiciary workers joined the industrial dispute on sympathy grounds with their counterparts,” he said, adding, “In any case, a meeting has been fixed for next Mondaybetween the Chief Judge of the state and officials of the executive to resolve the issue.”
Muyiwa Adekeye, the spokesperson for Governor el-Rufai of Kaduna State, did not answer PREMIUM TIMES’ repeated calls or respond to a text message requesting his reaction to JUSUN’s claim.