AKHERE Godwin, Benin
Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has said that he would not succumb to blackmail by the state branch of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) over their call for financial autonomy for the judiciary, insisting he will not surrender the authority of the state to employees who have chosen to use union actions to canvass non-union issues.
Speaking Thursday during the swearing-in of the Judicial Service Commission at the Government House, Oshiomhole said: “I want to publicly assure you that I am convinced that it is only reasonable and sensible for government to put in place a formular that will guarantee the independence of the judicial officers that he or she can perform his or her duties without fear of the executive and without being at the mercy of the executive. I remain committed to that and I remain committed to ensuring that this is done while I am here and it will be done because we are convinced about it.
“I think the state must resist blackmail as a matter of policy. Once blackmail is off the way, we have sufficient goodwill to solve this and other problems and I want to assure my Lord that this government under my stewardship will continue to respect the independence of the judiciary. It is not an act of favor, it is what the constitution dictates and it is also what makes sense and myself being a beneficiary of a courageous judiciary, I will do nothing to weaken the capacity of the judiciary to dispense justice without fear or favor. I ask you to take this for granted, it is unconditional and we will do everything to sustain it.
“Let me use this opportunity ,my Lord as I am sure Edo people will appreciate that I am sad by the fact that our courts like some other courts in many parts of the country have remained closed for quite some time. I believe that this is completely unfortunate and I also believe that the said action that has grounded the judiciary in Edo State as in several other states is something that was completely avoidable.
“My Lord I have had conversation with the leadership of JUSUN. They have confirmed that Edo State Government is not indebted to any worker. Their allowances are being paid as at when due; salaries are been paid as at when due; promotions are granted and implemented as at when due. When they came up with what they called special judicial salary scheme system, while many states of the federation refused to pay, Edo state government under my leadership readily agreed to enter negotiation and we have started implementing it for over 2 to 3 years now.
“Therefore on the quality of the welfare of workers in Edo Judiciary, I believe we have done our very best and today, it is important for the Edo public to appreciate that a cleaner in the office of the Chief Judge earns better than the Cleaner in the office of the Governor of Edo State. A cleaner in the office of a Judge in Edo State earns better than a Cleaner in the office of the Commissioner’s office. Administrative Officers that work in the Judiciary earn better than an Administrative worker in the Civil Service.
“So I believe we have done something to show the conviction of the very peculiar job of the judiciary even though there can be no justification for treating medical workers of the same qualification and the same job differently but they benefit by reason of the arm of government that they work for. We do not regret this because we approved of it in recognition that if you live by the river, you can’t be blame for sipping some water so because judicial officers performs special duties, those who work around them also lay claim to some kind of special status which explain why this special payment is made to them.
“It hurts therefore that having benefitted and having continued to benefit from a superior compensation system relative to the rest of the civil service, that they have chosen to down tools on the basis of issues that are considered completely external to them.
“I think the issue of the management of government finances between the three arms of government is a matter that is better left for the heads of the three arms of government namely; the Governor, the Speaker and the Chief Judge. Between us we can discuss as we have always done on how to deal with matters affecting the various arms of government.
“But we cannot surrender the authority of the state to employees who have chosen to use union actions to canvass non union issues. As a union man, I know what the limits are and I will not concede to encroachment beyond those legal limits.
Responding on behalf of the Commission members, Mr. Steve Ogbebor Odigie Esq said the members are grateful for the opportunity given them to serve.
He said, “Edo state is a large place and there are so many people qualified for this appointment and for the Governor to have picked us as worthy persons to be in this position is a mark of honor for us and we promise to do our best to justify your confidence in us”.
Members of the Commission are Hon Joe Iruafemi Ekpenkhio, Steve Ogbebor Odigie, Austin Omofuma and Yamah Mohammed.