By Kayode Adeoti
The issue of the Upper Area Court Judges and Magistrates in Kwara State jurisdiction threatening to down tool in order to register their displeasure over what they described as ‘poor working condition has again resurfaced. This is in view of the few hours warning strike demonstrated on Monday.
It was gathered by Pilot Law that the warning strike was planned to last the whole day but was eventually aborted after few hours due to non-compliance by some magistrates, who out of fear of being laid off resumed duties.
Recall that the Magistrates Association Nigeria (MAN), under the chairmanship of Magistrate Kudirat Yahya, late last year, allegedly issued a 14-day ultimatum to the Kwara state Chief Judge, Justice Saidu Sulyman Kawu threatening that if their condition does not improved, crisis looms.
Findings by this medium however revealed that the purpose of their grievances was contained in the letter sent to the CJ on 2nd November, 2017. In the said letter, they sought several reliefs among which are; provision for an enabling court environment. They analysed that no fewer than 6 magistrates share one courtroom and used it based on seniority.
They also sought holistic review of security provisions both within and outside the court premises. They noted that most magistrates’ chambers have no burglary proof or any form of security, adding that the litigants and the magistrates pass through same entrance.
Among the relief sought is an order of immediate payment of all outstanding allowances, provision of cars/car grant to all magistrates, amortisation of subsequent wardrobe and furniture allowance, which they said must commence from January 2018.
A legal luminary in the state, Murtala Sambo, who spoke with this medium on the issue noted that on Monday, he observed that the magistrates did not sit, adding that he was later told by his colleagues that jurists have decided to go on strike for the day in order to make government fulfilled their promises over their plight.
He said, “I observed that virtually all the magistrates did not sit on Monday, lawyers were sighted returning to their chambers for failure to hold proceedings. Judiciary is expected to be independent, but when it has to be dependent on the executive over their dues, then, the acclaimed independence is nothing but a mirage. The jurists ought to have been paid some allowances, but they’ve been living on hopes, this was what prompted the warning strike, it is just to call government’s attention to their plight,” he said.
Also, chairman of the Ilorin branch, Young Lawyers Forum, Olayinka Dauda Jimoh, who said he was affected by the few hours strike, saluted the courage of the magistrates, adding that reason behind their action is very germane and important.
He added that the strike could not take full effect as it was halted after few hours even as he prayed government to come to the aid of the jurists in order to avert the looming strike.
“If the jurists finally go on strike, court activities will be grounded, and we have criminal matters in which accused persons are in custody. That will seriously jettison the advocacy for fast tracking of criminal justice system. Government has been trying but we want them to do more,” he urged.
In his reaction, the former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Titus Olasupo Ashaolu, SAN, stressed that the development is welcoming, adding that he sees nothing wrong with it if they’ve decided to boycott court process over their predicament.
According to him, “If government owes them, the best thing is to pay them up so that they can enjoy that position before they retire. They have children and responsibilities to carter for, if government doesn’t want them to be corrupt, they should do the right thing by upsetting the outstanding allowances. And, I don’t see anything wrong if they’ve gone on strike in order to register their displeasure,” he noted.
When contacted on Tuesday night over the development, the chairperson of the MAN, Magistrate Yahya, declined comment, saying, “I don’t have anything to say on the issue, thank you,”
Also, the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Kamaldeen Ajibade SAN, while speaking on the issue yesterday dismissed the claim even as he added that government is not aware of any impending strike from the magistrates.
“There is no one observing strike, where is the letter or notification of the warning strike? Is there any event towards that? Strike is not about observation,” the silk said.
Efforts to get reaction of the Chief Justice of the state over the issue however proved abortive as calls made to his line were not answered and text message forwarded to the same line was not replied at the time this paper went to bed.
Meanwhile, a reliable source from the Ministry of Justice, who confided in this medium, disclosed that the state government has mapped out plans to ensure that the needs of the jurists, especially at the lower cadres are met.
“I’m bold to say, government is committed to the welfare of the jurists in the state, it never took the judiciary for granted and plan is in top gear to ensure that their demands are met in due time.
“Government is responsible and has always been alive to its responsibilities in order to make life enjoyable for its citizenries, even in the face of poor federal allocation that has been biting hard on the state since the inception of this administration,” the source divulged.
Cause list in view of some of the State magistrates and High Courts
Magistrate Jumoke Bamigboye’s court
1) C.O.P vs Korede Samson arraigns for robbery, case adjourns to 31 January, 2018 for further mention.
2) C.O.P Vs Jamiu Kareem arraigns for attempt rape, case adjourns to 31 January, 2018 for further mention.
3) C.O.P Vs Abubakar Umar arraigns for criminal conspiracy, adjourns to 30 January, 2018 for further mention.
4) C.O.P Vs Azeez Yinus, AbdulKareem Ahmed, Saheed Ayelokun adjourns to 30 January, 2018 for further mention.
5) C.O.P Vs Haruna Usman arraigns for criminal trespass adjourns to 25 January 2018 for further mention.
6) C.O.P Vs Joseph Adeoye arraigns for criminal conspiracy, adjourns to 26 January, 2018 for hearing.
Magistrate Nurudeen Adeyanju’s court
1)Chief H.O Adeniyi Vs Adebayo Shittu case adjourns to 11January, 2018 for defence
2) Duroyaiye Joseph Vs Mulikat Habeed, adjourns to 11 January, 2018 for continuation of hearing.
3) C.O.P Vs Daramola Tosin adjourns to 11 January, 2018 for mention
4) Moh’d Wasiu Olayinka Vs Idris Rasaq & 7 others, adjourns to 17 January, 2018 for mention
5) C.O.P Vs Issah Khadijat &1 other, adjourns to 17 January, 2018 for trial within trial.
C.O.P Vs Jekemi Oluremi Mary, adjourns to 17 January, 2018 for continuation of hearing.
Onimago household case, adjourns to 29 January 2018.