Yekini Jimoh in Lokoja
The National Industrial Court has ordered the Kogi State Government to pay the sum of N1.529billion to the judiciary being the outstanding money due to it from July 2018 to March 2019.
The state government was also given 30 days within which to make the payment.
This was a major victory recorded by the state chapter of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) against the state government over the failure of the government to pay its members their salaries and allowances since July 2018.
In a landmark judgment delivered by Justice E.N.N. Agbakoba of the National Industrial Court in Abuja, the court held that the deliberate non-payment of salaries to the state judiciary workers in the circumstances stated in the case “amounts to inhuman or degrading treatment.”
The defendants in the case are the state governor, the state Attorney-General, the state Commissioner for Finance, Accountant-General, Auditor-General, Chief Judge of the state, Grand Kadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal, president of the Customary Court of Appeal and Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
The case was instituted by way of originating summons on March 21, 2019, in which seven questions were proposed for determination, prominent among which was whether or not the first to fifth defendants have the power to withhold the monthly salaries of the members of the claimant, by withholding the amounts standing to the credit of the sixth to ninth defendants in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state and payable to the Heads of Courts under section 121 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). It also sought 11 reliefs from the court.
Upon reviewing the relevant provisions of the constitution relating to the doctrine of separation of powers among the three arms of government, the powers and roles of the Auditor-General of a state, Heads of Courts and the National Judicial Council (NJC), Justice Agbakoba, relying on some judicial authorities, held that the doctrine of separation of powers means that the legislature, executive and judiciary are independent arms of the government with their respective functions subject to checks and balances.
According to the judge, each arm must not encroach on the functions of others as any such invasion must be regarded as unconstitutional.
It was part of the findings of the court that the Nigerian judiciary is constitutionally guaranteed to be financially independent from the executive arm of government, he added.
On the whole, Justice Agbakoba ordered the first to fifth defendants to pay forthwith, the arrears of salaries, allowances and emoluments of the members of the claimant standing to
the credit of the Kogi State judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of Kogi State to the Heads of Courts since July 2018.
The judge further ordered a perpetual injunction, restraining the first to fifth defendants from continuing to withhold the salaries, allowances and emoluments of the members of the claimant standing to the credit of the of Kogi State judiciary in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state.