By Sunday Ani
The former General Secretary of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Chief Frank Kokori, has called on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and, by extension, NUPENG and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSEN) to immediately join the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) in their struggle to get fiscal independence for the judiciary.
Judiciary workers have been on strike for over two weeks over the refusal of the state governors to accord full financial autonomy to the judicial arm of government at state level; a development that has led to the shutdown of courts in the country.
In a telephone chat with the Daily Sun, the former labour leader lambasted the governors for toying with the fiscal autonomy of the judiciary, saying their action amounts to selfishness.
He questioned why the governors would be so adamant to grant fiscal independence to the judiciary, even when such autonomy had been granted to the judiciary a long time ago by the National Assembly.
He noted that the judiciary was the bulwark of any democracy and should be free from the shackles of the executive because if the judiciary is not free, then citizens are not free in any democracy.
He stressed that until the real labour movement joined the JUSUN in its strike or sent a strong warning to the governors, they would not release the fiscal powers to the judiciary; a development he said was killing democracy in Nigeria.
‘The governors are selfish. They want to control the money meant for the judiciary so as to control the judges. They have refused to release the money to the judiciary and that is why JUSUN has been on strike. The entire courts in Nigeria have been shut down for over two weeks, yet the governors are still holding on to their control over the judiciary, even when the National Assembly has given the judiciary fiscal independence,’ Kokori said.
‘Until the real labour movement joins JUSUN or gives a warning to the governors, they will not release the fiscal powers to the judiciary. Today, you hear that a governor donates vehicles to the judges; is it his money? The money is supposed to go straight to the judiciary. And the governors have been told to do that, but for many years, they have refused to do it. They are killing democracy in this country, and if the judiciary is not free, then we are not free in this democracy.’