By Alex Enumah
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Thursday, refused to make an order for the freezing of nine bank accounts belonging to the Edo State Government, pending the liquidation of alleged 13 months salary arrears owed members of Judiciary workers in the state.
Justice Abang declined to grant the request on the grounds that the application lacked merit.
The workers under the state chapter of Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), had dragged the state government and the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Edo State over 13 months salary arrears.
The plaintiff had brought an application for an order Nisi, seeking to garnish the state government accounts with the Accountant General of the Federation, Zenith Bank PLC, Access Bank PLC, Uba PLC, Polaris Bank PLC, First Bank PLC, Guaranty Trust Bank PLC, Heritage Bank PLC and Sterling Bank PLC.
The application was sequel to a January 13, 2014 judgment JUSUN obtained against the 36 state governments for the payment of 13 months salary arrears.
But instead of applying to attach the account, the plaintiff applied to freeze the account pending when the arrears owed members of the union in Edo State is liquidated.
But in a short ruling, Justice held that the application lacked merit.
He said the court has the power to enforce its order when the application for such an order is competent.
He agreed that an earlier order of the Federal High Court has granted the autonomy of state Judiciaries, particularly as regards the payment of salaries of members of JUSUN, but noted that the amount to be attached must be specific.
He deemed the application to freeze the state’s accounts as vague for failing to state how much the union members are being owed, noting that the timing of same on the eve a major election was a deliberate attempt to cripple governance.
On the decision of January 13, 2014, Justice Abang maintained it was hinged on the right of JUSUN without actually stating what their entitlements are, adding that it was therefore the duty of their lawyer to state specifics, which he failed to do.
The case has been adjourned till September 30, for hearing of the lawsuit against 35 other state governors and their Attorneys General.
The decision of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court of January 13, 2014 was in favour of financial autonomy for the Judiciary, one that is yet to be complied with or appealed by the state governors.