The Eastern Bar Forum, an organization of lawyers in Rivers State, has given the Chief Judge of Rivers State, Hon. Justice Alaye Laminkara, 24 hours within which to confirm or deny the claim by the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, that the judiciary in Rivers State was already enjoying full financial autonomy.
Speaking with journalists in Port Harcourt on Monday, a spokesperson of the forum, Peter Amadi, said lawyers were shocked by the claim of the governor, even when official cars and houses were being purchased for judges by the governor.
Wike had on Monday told members of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, that protested to Government House that the strike by court workers in the state was unnecessary because the state had fully implemented the financial autonomy in the state.
NBA members’ protest to Government House was in solidarity with striking Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, JUSUN, who were demanding financial autonomy for the judiciary.
Wike had said, “What’s the reason, as far as this state is concerned, for JUSUN to go on strike? Is it because their national head office asked them to do so?
“Go and ask the judiciary in this state if any money meant for them is not given to them, even beyond that. So, we are implementing financial autonomy.
“If another state is not implementing, why should Rivers State have to suffer simply because some states are not implementing financial autonomy.”
The governor said he was surprised that NBA could protest over such issues when it did not protest the closure of the courts between 2013 and 2015, and when they knew that there is already full implementation of financial autonomy for the judiciary by his administration.
“I am surprised that, for the first time, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) is coming on to protest. When the courts were shut down, (from 2013 to May 2015) they couldn’t go on protest.
“Again, you have said here that you’re protesting because of what you fear could happen when I leave office, on whether my successor will continue to implement financial autonomy for the judiciary.
“Why not wait until then and protest if the person (successor) is not implementing it. What do you want me to do with the person who is coming after me, to compel him to do what?
“This protest is useless, as far as this state is concerned. You have no reason. I challenged anybody on it. Tell your President, they should name those states that are not implementing it and tell judiciary workers in those states to go on strike against them, not here.”
Chairman of Port Harcourt Branch of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Prince Nyekwere, who spoke on behalf of the group, said lawyers have been shut out of work for three weeks due to the JUSUN strike.
“Let us place on record, that we are aware that in our own judiciary, you have created an enabling environment. You have made provisions for the judiciary. In short, the Rivers State Judiciary cannot be compared to any other judiciary in the country.”
Nyekwere however said that the NBA would seek clarification with the chief judge of the state over the claim by the governor.
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