From Tony John, Port Harcourt
Members of the Rivers State branch of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) have said that government should not single them out for punishment for complying with the directive of their national leadership to shut down court activities.
JUSUN Rivers Chairman Nwachukwu Anthony stressed that the withdrawal of their services was a national issue and not peculiar to any particular state government.
Anthony told reporters in Port Harcourt that JUSUN picketed the judiciary nationwide after a 21-day ultimatum given to federal government to implement fully fiscal autonomy had elapsed.
He disclosed that judiciary staff are regarded as essential workers, stressing that even during the COVID-19 pandemic, when workers in several government ministries and departments operated from home, JUSUN members still went to work.
‘Let me tell you, if there are people who are so considerate among several Rivers State workers, they are judiciary workers,’ Anthony emphasised.
‘See, we just experienced the coronavirus pandemic. As it stands now, many workers in Rivers State ministries and departments are working from their houses.
‘Now, are you aware that judiciary workers have never stayed a day at home? They (government) say we are essential workers. And we have been working. We come to work very early in the morning and close late.
‘We don’t joke with our work. We value our jobs and we value the state government because they are doing their own work. But, what we are saying is, [what] we are doing now, we are not against the state government. It is a national issue.
‘The problem is not peculiar to Rivers State. It is not a quagmire between JUSUN Rivers State and the government. It is JUSUN nationwide versus government. So, nobody should single out JUSUN Rivers State to say we are complaining about government.’
Meanwhile, former Publicity Secretary of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Port Harcourt branch, Mr Angus Chukwuka, has urged JUSUN to consider ordinary citizens and suspend their strike.
Chukwuka said he supports the fiscal autonomy of the judiciary, stating, however, that shutting down the judiciary at a time government is trying to handle the backlog of court cases resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic is untimely.