Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahiaâ€¨
The courtrooms in Abia State were monday forced open by the state government having apparently lost patience with members of the state chapter of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), who have been on strike since December last year. The striking workers were also given an ultimatum to resume work not later than Wednesday or face the consequences.
The state judiciary workers were involved in the nationwide strike by JUSUN to press home their demand for financial autonomy of the judiciary arm of government.
Speaking at a press conference they jointly addressed, both the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Professor Mkpa Agu Mkpa and the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Umeh Kalu, justified the decision of government to open the courts by force.
According to the SSG, the leadership of JUSUN had remained recalcitrant and resisted every effort to resolve the impasse, saying that the union had continued to change the goal post by introducing the issue of consolidated judiciary salary scale (CONJUS) after government had accepted to abide by the court decision on the financial autonomy of the judiciary.
He said the state government had hoped to resolve the issue before the 2015 general election but “JUSUN of Abia State has tenaciously held to its position which has become difficult for government to understand and to implement.”
On his part, Kalu said the action of JUSUN in locking the courts had made it difficult for the election tribunal for Abia State to have access to the court, adding that the striking workers had no right to lock up government property.
He also lamented that Abia citizens were languishing in jail because the courts were locked down and litigants could not use the courts to seek justice while those in police custody could neither be granted bail nor charged to court.
“We can no longer allow a few citizens to hold the state to ransom,” he vowed, adding that JUSUN has been blackmailing and arm twisting government in the hope that they could exploit the election period to make unreasonable demands.
He said all the while government had refrained from wielding the big stick against the judiciary workers but with the situation getting out of control “we have risen to the occasion and opened the courts unlawfully locked” by the aggrieved workers.
The attorney general said the striking JUSUN members have until Wednesday to report to work as those who failed to do so would be regarded as having refused to remain in their jobs.