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Edo Judiciary Workers Defy Sack Threat, Continue Strike Action
By Jefferson Ibiwale, Benin
Judiciary workers in Edo State have continued their five month long strike action in defiance of a directive by the state government that they return to work on Monday or be sacked.
The workers, under the umbrella of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, JUSUN, embarked on industrial action on January 5, 2015, alleging that the state government had failed to implement the financial autonomy granted the judiciary in a judgement delivered by a Federal High Court in Abuja on 13 January, 2015.
The Edo State Judicial Service Commission, JSC, last Thursday in a statement signed by its secretary, Isaac Sanu, had ordered the striking workers to return to their duty post on Monday, threatening that they would be sacked if they failed to do so.
The workers however vowed not to call off the strike action until their grievances were addressed, describing the threat as illegal.
In a dramatic move to enforce the directive of the judicial commission on Monday, the chief registrar of Edo State High Court, Hilary Enemaku, broke the lock on the gate of the state high court in order to allow workers resume work.
Enemaku said his action was in line with the directive of the JSC that the judiciary workers should return to work on Monday, adding that as the chief registrar of the State High Court, he had the responsibility to ensure that workers have access to their offices.
Reacting to the threat, the state vice chairman of JUSUN, Egbomeade John, however said that judicial workers would not be intimidated by the JSC to call off the strike when they are being owed six months salaries.
He however noted that the leadership of JUSUN was disposed to negotiation if it is approached by JSC and the state government.
“To be sincere, the leadership of JUSUN have actually met with that of the JSC, the only thing they could say was just threat that we should resume first before discussing anything about salaries. It was not true that the commission asked us to accept one or two months to call off the strike,” he said.
“For JSC to say they have spoken to us on several occasions to accept some months salaries is untrue. We are angry because the JSC which is supposed to be the commission that is representing the interest of the judiciary threatened us with sack,” he added.
Egbomeade condemned the directive of the JSC , describing it as “illegal, null and void” as the matter had already been filed at the National Industrial Court.
“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,” he stated.
But Sanu insisted on Monday that directive of the commission for the striking workers to resume remained effective.
“The stand of the commission is that all workers of Edo State Judiciary should resume duty today, without which they know the consequence that follow.
Also reacting to the situation, the Edo State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Emmanuel Ademokun, assured that strike would be called off “sooner or later,” as the union was making efforts to negotiate with the state government.