Members of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, JUSUN, in Osun State, barricaded the entrance to the Osun State High Court in Osogbo on Monday.
Their protest was aimed at expressing their dissatisfaction with the Chief Judge, Adepele Ojo, and the management’s handling of judicial affairs in the state.
The protesting workers, led by the chairman of JUSUN in the state, Mr Gbenga Eludire, prevented movement into the premises from 7:00 am.
Staff, lawyers and other people with business on the premises of the court were kept at the gate by the protesters who locked the entrance.
There was also large presence of police operatives who stationed their vehicles near the entrance to the premises.
Armed with placards with inscriptions such as ‘Judiciary staff deserves better,’ ‘We are tired of oppression and stagnation,’ and ‘Unlawful suspension of Judiciary staff without recourse to Judicial Service Commission is barbaric,’ among others, accused Ojo of refusal to pay wardrobe allowances of workers in the last three years.
Speaking with journalists, Eludire accused Ojo of suspending workers without following due process, adding that the Chief Judge had put a stop to statutory training for workers to improve their productivity.
He further 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 for the world to hear about what we are going through as workers in the temple of justice.
“One of the reasons why 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 that 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 and employee bargaining system. Many of these people were arraigned before the Chief Magistrate 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 safeguard and 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 this wardrobe allowances for the years 2021/2022/2023 we have not received.
“And this is part of the question we have been asking from 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 these privileges, why should it be?”
Asked if the faceoff between the state government and the Chief Judge was responsible for the agitations, Eludire, who disclosed he was unaware of any faceoff between the judge and government, said the timing of their action against Ojo had nothing to do with the petition against her.
Madukwe B. Nwabuisi is an accomplished journalist renown for his fearless reporting style and extensive expertise in the field. He is an investigative journalist, who has established himself as a kamikaze reporter.