From Tony John, Port Harcourt
Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike, has warned that if the state chapter of Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) fails to call off its strike by the end of the month, the government will have no option, but to implement the prevailing law on no-work, no-pay.
Wike reiterated that there was no basis for JUSUN to have joined the protracted national strike as the issues in contention did not apply to the state where the judiciary enjoyed financial autonomy and much improved staff welfare.
He stated this in his farewell speech at a special court session in honour of the retiring Chief Judge of Rivers State, Adama Iyayi-Lamikanra, in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The governor said the state was not unaware of the so-called agreement among the Federal Government, Governors’ Forum and JUSUN on the implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary and legislative branches across the country.
Wike said: “We would, therefore, neither set up any new implementation committee because it is simply unnecessary, nor allow the state’s judiciary to submit its budget directly to the House of Assembly in breach of extant fiscal policies and regulations that regulate the budgeting process.”
Governor Wike took a swipe at the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) for instigating unnecessary tension in the state over the appointment of a chief judge.
He also castigated International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) for making misguided noises on gender equality because a woman was not recommended by the National Judicial Council to succeed Justice Iyayi-Lamikanra.
The governor maintained that in the appointment of an acting chief judge, the most senior judge in the hierarchy is an absolute condition.
He said it is not the same in the appointment of a substantive chief judge.
“Apart from the basic qualifications, sound character, ability to lead and work harmoniously with colleagues, hard work and willingness to take on challenging cases without a penchant for returning files for reassignment on flimsy excuses are some of accepted dispositional requirements for such very important appointment.
“At any rate, the state Judicial Service Commission (JSC) could not have recommended a judicial officer who has become notorious for returning case files for reassignment on flimsy excuses to the prime position of chief judge.
“No one should have expected the state’s JSC to recommend for appointment as chief judge a judicial officer who had promised to reopen disciplinary cases already dealt with and reinstate persons duly disciplined for corrupt practices and abuse of office.
“And no one could have convinced the JSC to recommend for appointment as a chief judge, a judicial officer who had promised to work with the political opposition to make the upcoming political transition process very turbulent and difficult for the state”.
The governor extolled Iyayi-Lamikanra as a bold, fearless and courageous judge who resisted political pressures to give the wrong judgment and halted the sitting of the Kangaroo judicial panel of inquiry set up by the previous governor to vainly indict his political reputation on spurious charges and fabricated facts.
He said under the leadership of Iyayi-Lamikanra, the judiciary effectively enjoyed both administrative and financial autonomy never experienced before in Rivers.