Justice Oluwatoyin Akeredolu, the embattled Acting Chief Judge of Ondo State, has ordered a fresh recruitment exercise after sacking over ninety magistrates from the state judiciary service system, SaharaReporters has learnt.
It would be recalled that Justice Akeredolu sacked over 90 magistrates and staff attorneys on September 14, 2017, following alleged irregularities in their employment.
Our correspondent gathered that application forms for the vacant seats have been disseminated by the judiciary. The sacked magistrates have also been removed from the judiciary’s payroll.
On Sunday evening, documents obtained by our correspondent in Akure showed that the Ondo State judiciary, under the instructions of Justice Akeredolu, had begun the process of recruiting replacements for the sacked magistrates and attorneys.
Some of the documents, including copies of advertorials, showed that vacancies had already been placed on the seats of the magistrates, senior registrars (to function as staff attorneys), Grade A customary court president, customary court members and customary court inspectors.
A copy of one of the advertorials signed by the Secretary of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Odubira Egbunu, placed the vacancies on categories A to E as “easy access” for those seeking to fill the various vacant positions in the service.
A section of the documents showed that applicants jostling for the positions must be indigenes of Ondo State with at least three years of legal experience and must have been called to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
A source from the state judiciary who spoke on the condition of anonymity told SaharaReporters that the magistrates who were sacked are not allowed to reapply for their positions.
The source also disclosed that no fewer than 200 applicants have obtained the application forms from the Head of Department of Establishment and Training of the Ondo State JSC.
She explained that some of these vacancies and slots have been contracted to the members and bigwigs of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that worked to ensure the victory of the party on the November 26, 2016 governorship election in the state.
“Many of these vacancies have been allocated to supporters of the APC in the state. They give the vacancies to their children or relatives who are lawyers. Even some lawyers sympathetic to the APC government have been given some slots in the vacant positions,” the source said.
She added that the governor and his cronies are penalizing those in the judiciary who did not support him.
Already, the suspended magistrates have accused the Ondo State Acting Chief Judge of deliberately chasing them out of the judiciary in order to pave way for fresh recruits into the system.
The over affected magistrates have described their suspension as a “political vendetta” under the ruling government of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The magistrates expressed their grievances through an electronic statement that was signed by one Gbenga Adeyemi issued to journalists and obtained by SaharaReporters in Akure.
They complained that the suspension letter that was issued to them on September 14, 2017 on the basis of “perceived irregularity and lack of due process in [their] appointment as a Magistrate in the Ondo State Judiciary” was embarrassing.
The affected magistrates argued that their appointments had already been gazetted by the Ondo State House of Assembly in the appropriate years of their employment in the judiciary and wondered why they would be dismissed unjustly when the Judicial Service Commission had not been constituted.
They noted that a committee set up during the plenary session to look into the termination of their appointment from service met on September 22, 2017, but only came up with an advertisement of vacancies for the positions of the magistrates without any recourse to the suspended magistrates.
“Till date, we are yet to hear from the said plenary session as to the outcome. We neither heard nor received any other letter from the Ondo State Judicial Service Commission determining our position regarding the suspension.
“This is unfair and unjust, with most of us having spent over five years as a magistrate and appointments confirmed by the state government two years after their appointment.
“Some of us were converted from staff attorneys to magistrates after plenary sessions and even some have taken promotional examinations and have been promoted while others are awaiting confirmation, having spent close to two years without any misconduct.”
The magistrates noted that immediately after they were suspended by the Acting Chief Judge from the judicial service, their “imprest for the month of August was paid wickedly” on the same day the suspension letter was served on them.
“This Acting Chief Judge and her clowns of advisers have been doing all this out of hate and flagrant disrespect to decorum and reasoning. She intimidates like she is a demigod; the special hatred she has for the magistrates is second to none.
“In light of the above, we appeal to all who care about the sanctity and sanity within the judiciary to, as a matter of urgency, rescue the Ondo State judiciary from the claws of the Acting Chief Judge O.O. Akeredolu who is bent on rubbishing the judiciary.
“Such act is unjust, absurd, unlawful and irregular. We appeal to those concerned to prevail on the Acting Chief Judge of Ondo State, call her to order to reverse the so-called suspension and reinstate us back to our positions with adequate compensations,” their statement read.