Judiciary workers in Kogi State on Monday protested against the plot by the state government to remove the Chief Judge Justice Nasiru Ajanah from office.
Silver News gathered that Governor Yahaya Bello has over the weekend instructed the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Matthew Kolawole, to unlawfully remove the state Chief Judge, Justice Nasiru Ajanah, from office.
The source equally disclosed that the Speaker was also instructed by the governor to mobilise his members on Monday on how to remove the Chief Judge from office on Tuesday.
However, the state Chairman of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, Comrade Emmanuel Waniko, has called on the Speaker against the plot to illegally and forcefully remove the Chief Judge.
This led to the judiciary workers carrying various placards with inscription, “Why are you punishing us”, “Pay us our salary”, “Bello you benefited from judiciary why are you fighting us?”.
Meanwhile, the chairman said ” We were last paid in June 2018 which makes it a total of nine months today that we are being owed our legitimate salaries. We are therefore upbeat that even after almost four months that our courts are shut down because of our ongoing strike, the state assembly would make itself available to further foster another crisis on the state through this proposed illegal removal of the Chief Judge.
The Union opined that the executive arm of Kogi State must be told that JUSUN is resolute in their effort to right the wrongs been perpetuated in the state by governor Yahaya Bello.
He called on the state assembly to steer clear of this crisis and should rather use its constitutional authority to bring sanity to the state by calling the governor to order.
“Any attempt to bring the hallowed chambers of the state judiciary into disrepute through this glaring and obvious miss governance in the state by illegally pronouncing the removal of the Chief Judge would be stoutly resisted.
“We will also use this opportunity to encourage our members and urge our judiciary officers not to fall for the antics of the clear underperforming administration of governor Yahaya Bello.
“We are aware that he has been shopping for any judge that will compromise and betray the judiciary but we have confidence in your integrity which has stood Kogi State judiciary out among other states in country.
Speaking also on the plot, a Senior legal practitioner who claimed anonymous said It is unlawful for the House to embark on such a wasteful venture. More so that there is a subsisting order of the High Court restraining the House and the Governor from doing anything pertaining to the subject matter “
“There is a decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Elelu Habib vs Attorney General of the Federation where the court stated as follows:
“It is not difficult to see that for the effective exercise of the powers of removal of a Chief Judge of a State by the Governor and the House of Assembly, the first PORT OF CALL by the Governor on his journey to remove a Chief Judge of the State SHALL BE National Judicial Council which is equipped with the personnel and resources to investigate the inability of the Chief Judge to discharge the functions of his office, to subject of disciplinary action for removal through the committee of the council.
“This is an illegality that is bound to put the State in bad light and could result dire consequences for the House of Assembly in view of the Court order they’ve been called upon to flout”.
HOUSE GOES AHEAD
Meanwhile, the Kogi House of Assembly has recommended the removal of the state Chief Judge, Justice Nasir Ajanah, over alleged gross misconduct including financial breaches.
This followed the adoption of the report and recommendations of the House committee on “Public Accounts on the State Auditor General’s Report on 2016 Financial Statements” in Lokoja.
The Chairman of the committee, Ahmed Mohammed ( APC-Ankpa) while presenting the report said said that the Chief Judge should step aside to defend himself over the alleged indictment by the Auditor-General of the state.
Mohammed also said the Public Accounts Committee was set up in line with Section 103 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) at the plenary sitting of the House on Monday 24th December 2018.
According to him, the committee was mandated to investigate and reported cases of financial breaches, noncompliance with financial regulations and poor handling of financial records by various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the State Government.
He equally said that Kogi State Judiciary was said to have during the year ended December 2016, expended its budget above the approved limits provided in some sub heads as contained in the 2016 Appropriation Law to the tune of N7,574, 850 without the approval of virement application.
“It was also reported by the State Auditor-General that Kogi State High Court made huge cash withdrawal to the tune of N137,607,334.11). The cash was withdrawn from High Court Bank account in the year under review.
This transaction breached the provisions of chapter 6, regulation 632 which stipulates that “the use of cash for payment is hereby prohibited”, he said.
The committee therefore, recommenced the removal of the Chief Judge for gross misconduct or in the alternative, he should step aside pending his appearance before the House committee on Public Accounts to defend himself.
It also recommended that the Chief Registrar on the other hand, should be referred to the state Judicial Service Commission for disciplinary action and that the state government should commence immediate payment of judicial staff salaries.
The Majority Leader of the House, Abdullahi Hassan-Balogun (APC-Ajaokuta) moved for the adoption of the report and was seconded by the Deputy Minority Leader, Oluwatoyin Lawal (PDP-Yagba-West).
Haruna Musa (APC-Idah) in his contribution urged the House to take cognisance of a subsisting court order on the impasse between the House and the Judiciary and be guarded adequately.
In his contribution, the Chief Whip, Mr Victor Adewale Omofaiye (APC-Ijumu) urged that efforts should be made to staff of the Judiciary the nine months salary arrears while the investigation went on.
Speaker of the House, Prince Matthew Kolawole adopted the report and recommendations following majority voice votes by members present at plenary.