Members of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria in Osun State on Monday staged a protest against the state’s Chief Judge, Justice Adepele Ojo, accusing her of abuse of office and high-handedness.
The protesting workers, who carried placards, blocked the entrance to the state high court and also picketed the office of the Chief Judge.
This was as the state House of Assembly, which, last Thursday, recommended the suspension of the Chief Judge, listed the allegations against her in a statement on Monday by the Press Secretary to the Speaker, Tiamiyu Olamide.
The PUNCH reports that the Osun State government last Thursday announced the suspension of the Chief Judge, saying it was acting on a resolution of the House of Assembly.
In the statement by his Press Secretary on Monday, the Speaker of the Osun Assembly, Adewale Egbedun, insisted that the House was right on the resolution suspending the Chief Judge.
Egbedun said, “Given that the Osun State House of Assembly received several petitions alleging corruption against the Chief Judge of Osun State, the Osun State House of Assembly would have been negligent and in breach of its constitutional responsibilities if it had ignored the petitions.
“For the benefit of the public, some of the allegations against the Chief Judge are diversion of the funds for the State Judiciary Library; diversion of the robe allowance of a brother judge of the Osun State High Court which is about N5,000,000; indiscriminate suspension of judicial staff without going through the Judicial Service Commission and diversion of their salaries; diversion of revenue due to the government from filing electronic affidavits through the sole appointment of a consultant by the Chief Judge. In this case, the consultant makes N1,000 on an affidavit as against just N250 that is being remitted to the state coffers.
“Disobedience to a court judgment that discharged and acquitted a judicial staff of the allegation of embezzling N30,000 typing sheet fund; and diversion of the proceeds that were recovered from the convicted armed robbers of the Ikirun robbery.”
Meanwhile, the protesting workers as early as 7 am on Monday locked the entrance to the high court, leaving lawyers and litigants stranded.
Among other things, the placard-bearing workers accused the CJ of refusing to pay them wardrobe allowances in the last three years despite budgetary approval.
Led by the Osun JUSUN Chairman, Gbenga Eludire, the protesting workers had placards with inscriptions such as ‘Judiciary staff deserves better,’ ‘We are tired of oppression and stagnation,’ ‘Unlawful suspension of judiciary staff without recourse to the Judicial Service Commission is barbaric,’ among others.
There was also a large presence of police operatives who stationed their vehicles near the entrance of the premises.
Speaking with journalists, Eludire accused the Chief Judge of suspending workers without following due process. He also alleged that the Chief Judge placed an embargo on workers’ statutory training.
The JUSUN chairman said, “We are here to picket the office of the Honourable Chief Judge of Osun State on some grounds. Before now, we have adopted several approaches to at least mend the situation for the Chief Judge to do the needful. But we are left with no other option than to picket her office so that we can amplify our voices to the world to hear about what we are going through as workers in the temple of justice.
“One of the reasons we are here today to picket the office of the CJ is that some of our members have been suspended for more than three years running to about 59 months now. Why should that be? Even without any recourse to the Judicial Service Commission! Ordinarily, the rule says for any senior officer to be sanctioned or to be punished, such an officer must pass through an investigation by the Judicial Service Commission
“But in our own case, it was a unilateral decision of the CJ and it is against the ethics of our job and it is even against the employer-employee bargaining system. Many of these people were arraigned before the Chief Magistrates Court and they were vindicated, but I must tell you even after that, the CJ insisted that her will must be done and we don’t know to what extent.
“We must understand that these people have been passing through hell for a long period. They have families to take care of; they have wives and children. For how long are we going to fold our hands looking at these people to suffer? And that is why we are solidarising with them.
“More so, many of them have even died. We realised that about 10 of them were summarily dismissed without recourse to the Judicial Service Commission. There are many other things we want to put an end to. Judiciary staff are not slaves; we are even called the engine room of the court. How practicable is this? We need to check the excesses of our Honourable CJ and that is why we have come out.
“Besides that, we realise there are some other benefits that were to be accorded to judiciary workers but up till now we have not seen anything. We have consulted and we have even approached our CJ on several occasions to plead on behalf of our members because it is our duty to protect the interests of all our members. They are all financial members and we must have their interest.
“We have done this on several occasions discussing with our CJ but it appeared she is not ready to recognise or even reckon with what we are demanding from her. For example, there is something we call wardrobe allowances and the government has done its own part by releasing some funds to mitigate this in the budget on a yearly basis. But I must tell you that the wardrobe allowances for the years 2021, 2022, and 2023 we have not received.
“And this is part of the question we have been asking the CJ. Why should it be? More so, it is our conventional practice that on a yearly basis, some categories of workers in the judiciary will be sent on training to enhance efficiency and effectiveness at the National Judicial Institute. But since 2015, this has stopped and it has, in fact, retarded the operations of judiciary workers and we are asking our CJ why should it be when our counterparts in other states are enjoying this privilege.”
Asked if the face-off between the state government and the Chief Judge was responsible for the agitations, Eludire, who declared he was unaware of any faceoff between the CJ and government, said the timing of their action against Justice Ojo had nothing to do with the petition against her.
But Osogbo branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, on Monday, knocked Governor Ademola Adeleke over the handling of the case.
The NBA, in a letter to the governor by its chairman and secretary, Yemi Abiona and Ibrahim Oyekunmi, respectively, warned Adeleke against taking steps “that may precipitate an avoidable constitutional crisis in the state, thereby creating for the state an image of a lawless people rather than that of Omoluabi which the people of the state are all known to be.”
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