Following the continued strike action of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has threatened that the state government will withhold their salaries that it fails to call off its strike by the end of May.
Gov Wike claimed that there was no basis for JUSUN strike in Rivers because the judiciary in the state was already enjoying financial autonomy and improved staff welfare.
The governor expressed his displeasure on the prolonged strike on Tuesday in Port Harcourt at the special court session in honour of the retiring Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Adama Iyayi-Lamikanra.
He explained that the state was not unaware of the agreement among the Federal Government, the Governors Forum and JUSUN on the implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary and legislative branches across the country.
But he said: “We would therefore neither set up any new implementation Committee because it’s simply unnecessary, nor allow the state’s judiciary to submit its budget directly to the state House of Assembly in breach of extant fiscal policies and regulations that regulate the state’s budgeting process.”
Wike further took a swipe at the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) for inciting 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 Adama Iyayi-Lamikanra.
The governor maintained that in the appointment of an Acting Chief judge, the most senior judge in the hierarchy remained an absolute condition.
He said the condition was not the same in the appointment of a substantive chief judge.
He said: “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 could not have recommended a judicial officer who has become notorious for returning casefiles for reassignment on flimsy excuses to the prime position of chief judge.
“No one should have expected the State’s Judicial Service Commission 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 State Judicial Service Commission 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.”
Extolling the virtues of Justice Iyayi-Lamikanra, Gov Wike described the retiring judge as a bold, fearless and courageous judge who resisted political pressures and halted the sitting of the kangaroo judicial panel of inquiry set up by the previous governor to indict his political reputation on spurious charges and fabricated facts.
He also stressed that under the leadership of Justice Iyayi-Lamikanra the state’s judiciary effectively enjoyed both administrative and financial autonomy never before experienced in this state.
The governor presented to her the certificate of occupancy of a new deluxe home built for her by the state government and keys for a brand-new sport utility vehicle and a Hilux van.
In her remarks, Justice Iyayi-Lamikanra said she would eternally be grateful to Wike, who made it possible for her to emerge as the 8th Chief Judge of the state despite being a non-indigene.
She said: “Not standing on ceremonies and putting aside all the sentiments and prejudices that have hobbled this otherwise great country of our since its founding. His Excellency, as if against the run of play, appointed me the chief judge on 8th day of March, 2016, making me the second non-Rivers indigene.”
She described the JUSUN strike as unnecessary because the state judiciary was currently enjoying full financial autonomy.
She urged the striking workers to call off the strike in the interest of dispensation of justice.
Also, Rivers State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor lauded Justice Iyayi-Lamikanra for developing a unique style of saving precious judicial time that ensured speedy determination of cases and matters before her.
He said: “Your service to the Rivers State judiciary and contributions to the development of our law and the sustainable growth of the legal profession will forever be appreciated by all men of goodwill.”
Former President of the Nigeria Bar Association, Onueze C.J. Okocha (SAN), said Justice Iyayi-Lamikanra judicial career was unblemished and commended her for digitalisation of the state judiciary.