Following the suspension of the indefinite strike embarked upon by Kogi State branch of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) penultimate week, the Chief Judge of the state, Hon. Justice Josiah Joe Majebi, has expressed disappointment with rumor mongers amongst staff even as he said that the funds belonging to both staff and the institution were too poisonous for him to either embezzle or misappropriate.
Addressing judiciary staffs in Lokoja on Wednesday July 26, the Kogi Chief Judge reassured them of his commitment to promoting staff welfare, adding that, the strike embark upon by JUSUN took him by surprise.
He cautioned the union on being mindful of the efforts of the leadership of the judiciary in the management of the meager resources available to it and their undeniable effort at seeing that staff working conditions are improved.
According to Justice Majebi, the State’s Council of Judges has been conversant with staff agitations and shares in their pains especially as occasioned by the adverse effect of the fuel subsidy removal on Nigerians.
He however noted that the economic hardship does not warrant irresponsibility on the part of staff who threw caution to the winds in using the social media platforms meant to project the image and integrity of the institution to denigrate the leadership of the state, that of the institution and even that of the union.
He warned that such immoral acts would no longer be condoned just as he ordered the Management of the institution to sanitize the platforms.
Expressing dismay on staff misconception over the amount released to the judiciary, he recounted how his predecessors misconstrued the addition of N40m to High Court subvention in December 2022 which was used to clear promotion arrears before government’s pronouncement of the implementation of minimum wage in February this year.
While noting that the Sharia and Customary Courts of Appeal in the State were able to promptly comply with implementing the minimum wage for junior staff, it was difficult for the High Court to do same due to the disparity in staff strength and needs of the three courts.
He said Customary Courts of Appeal had about 500 staff each, while the High Court has about 2000 before it was bloated with more than 400 recruitments by his immediate predecessor.
He reiterated that since the advent of the present administration under his leadership, he has, along with other heads of courts and the Council of Judges, been demonstrably committed to the improvement of staff welfare and the improvement of their working conditions and known to JUSUN.
He reminded staff that the present administration inherited numerous problems bordering on staff welfare which are being gradually tackled within the capacity of the judiciary transparently.
Continuing, Justice Majebi said “All staff representative organs within the institution – JUSUN, MAN, IAJA – were drafted into the Funds Disbursement Committee and have been part of sharing the amounts due to the High Court of Justice. He said that they are all conversant with the penurious and parlous state of the High Court was therefore no longer in doubt.
“Along this line, judiciary leadership has equally been unrelenting in engaging the executive arm of government on all financial and other challenges confronting the judiciary arm and her staffers.
“Through these concerted efforts, approvals have been secured from government on some aspects that would substantially improve those areas that are critical to the administration of justice in the state when funded”.
He added that, reaching an understanding that led to the suspension of the strike before staff were paid the balance of the minimum wage for the month of June was unprecedented.
He, therefore, advised against being confrontational with the executive arm of government stressing that history has proven that dialogue and negotiations were more profitable than confrontation while also indicating that it would always be the path that the management of the judiciary would thread.
“I had the opportunity of telling JUSUN that government did not owe the judiciary because when my lord, Justice Olusiyi, came in he saw the need to have promotions effected.
“As at that time, he was left with the sum of N16m after payment of salary and the monthly debt and claims was almost N60m. But he felt he should do promotion because people were due for retirement and would have retired on grade levels that they had originally out passed while in service and would have adversely affected their pension” he stated.
He said out of the N40m added to the subvention December last year, N29m was used for staff promotion while the remaining N11m was used to offset the allowances of Judges who were 22 in number then and whose salaries and allowances were last reviewed in 2007.
Justice Majebi lamented that, High Court staff strength was bloated up to 400 while there was neither approval for promotions not recruitment.
“So by February when government commenced payment of the minimum wage, it was unknown to us that the earlier increment in our subvention was meant for the minimum wage but was used to settle promotions. And all through there was never any application for any other allocation to offset the minimum wage up to the time I was sworn in neither was there any approval for promotions from government” he said.