ISESELE EZEKIEL, Benin
Striking Judiciary workers in Edo State yesterday defied a directive by the Edo State Government ordering them to call off their over four-month industrial action and return to work or face dismissal from the civil service.
The workers, under the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, have been on strike since January 5 over the alleged unwillingness of the state government to show commitment towards implementing the financial autonomy granted to the judiciary by a Federal High Court in Abuja on January 13.
The workers are also protesting the non-payment of their June 2014 and January 2015 salaries, a demand they had vowed would leave the state courts shut until it was addressed.
However, in a bid to reopen the courts, the Judicial Service Commission had, in a statement signed by its Secretary, Isaac Sanu, last Thursday instructed the workers to return to their duty post on May 18, failure of which it said would lead to a dismissal from the state civil service.
But the workers, many of whom were seen at the entrance of the State High Court on Sapele road, described the directive as illegal and vowed not to the call off the strike or return to work until their grievances were addressed.
It was, however, gathered that main gate of the high court was forced open at about 9am under the supervision of the Chief Registrar of the court, after some of the striking employees tried to prevent entry into the court, a move the Vice Chairman of the union, John Egbomeade, described as mere intimidation which the workers would not succumb to.
Egbomeade said, “The Chief Registrar of the High Court, H. E. Enemaku, came to break the door and forced the door open, that the workers are willing to come to work. But you can see that even some hours after the door has been broken, no staff is prepared to work.
“So, that is to tell you that they are trying to intimidate the workers to come to work. But the workers are saying there is no going back. So, irrespective of any threat, the strike continues. So, the workers are resolute, undaunted – no going back until our demands are met.”
He condemned the directive of the commission, describing it as “illegal, null and void,” arguing that the matter had already been filed at the National Industrial Court with “suit no: NIC/15/2015,” with the JSC as a party to the suit, as “the third respondent.”
“So, it is very surprising and very unfortunate that a commission headed by a Chief Judge, who is a lawyer and a judge can condescend so low to use its members to break the gate. The workers here are in solidarity with us.
“Our stand is that the strike continues until further directives. As they (JSC) are meeting, we are meeting and we are getting in touch with our national body because it’s not just a state strike,” he added.