Judges, magistrates threaten strike over poor working condition

Date: 2017-11-13

Crisis is looming and the effect if not averted, would have a devastating effect in the judicial circles in Kwara State as lower court judges and magistrates have threatened to down tool if their working conditions failed to improve.

To this end, there is already a 21-day ultimatum for the government to put things right or there will be a boycott of the courtrooms.

But the state government has said it is not aware the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) had been served by the aggrieved magistrates over the matter.

The JSC, according to a top source in the Ministry of Justice, is the appropriate body for the magistrates to channel their complaints; it was gathered, last night.

Commenting on the development, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Kamaldeen Ajibade (SAN) told National Pilot in a telephone chat that, "We are hearing it as a rumour just like any other person. I am a member of the JSC but I am not aware the body has been served," Ajibade submitted.

The complaints of the magistrates which our reporter gathered was attached to a letter that was sent to the Kwara State Chief Judge, Saidu Kawu on Thursday November 2, 2017, include but not limited to the following:

• Kwara State magistrates are the least paid in the country.

• No car grant for Kwara magistrates for the past 8-10 years.

• Magistrates go to court in public buses and taxis.

• No payment of allowances as at when due.

• About 4-6 magistrates share courtroom, among others.

They are therefore making the following demands:

Provision of an enabling working environment

Holistic review of security provisions both within and outside the court premises

Immediate payment of all outstanding allowances

Provision of cars/car grant to all magistrates

Amortisation of subsequent wardrobe and furniture allowances commencing from January 2018 and provision of housing scheme for all magistrates, among others.

There had been several meetings held by the body before the CJ was notified, it was gathered.

This reporter sighted two letters that were written by magistrates over the issue, the second of which was sent to the CJ signed by "All the Magistrates".

In one of the resolutions of the body after a meeting on Thursday 26th, October, 2017, held under the auspices of the Magistrates Association of Nigeria (MAN), Kwara State branch, the lower judges "instructed its executive to write the CJ informing him that Kwara State Magistrate would be going on strike 14 days from the date of receipt of the 2nd letter, if government refused to do the needful.

In the first letter that was written to the CJ, dated 22nd September, 2017, titled "Safety, Security and Welfare of Kware Magistrates: Quest for Urgent Redress", the magistrates thanked the CJ for the efforts so far in improving the welfare and working condition of Magistrates and lamented heavily about the working conditions. They lamented the lack of security for the magistrates and specifically noted, "The brutal and heinous beheading of an Area Court judge in Yashikira.

Part of the letter reads:

"There was an emergency meeting of the Magistrates' Association of Nigeria, Kwara branch, which was held on the 11th September, 2017. At the meeting, it was unanimously resolved that a letter be written to your Lordship on our plight.

"My Lord, we sit daily to secure remand of hardened criminals accused of armed robbery, cultism, culpable homicide, kidnapping, rituals, rape, burglary, house breaking and the likes, pending their proper arraignment and trial.

"It is clear...that the judicial duty we discharge is a hazardous one indeed. Of course our fears are not in the realm of the intangible. "The brutal and heinous beheading of an Area Court judge in Yashikira, during the course of his duties some time ago, clearly indicates the height of danger that judges of the lower bench are exposed to as front line judicial officers.

"In the face of these dangers, no less than 90% of Magistrates live in rented apartments with no form of security to match the nature of hazard they are exposed to.

"Several Magistrates have no cars or have cars that are in unserviceable state. They therefore have to join public transport to and from work and to other places they wish to go and sometimes they come in contact with accused persons or their allies. This is even more worrisome for out-stationed Magistrates.

"Most Magistrates' chambers have no burglary proof or any form of security. In some courtrooms, the Magistrate, the litigants as well as accused persons pass through one and the same door! Some Magistrates do not have court orderlies. They therefore carry on their judicial duties in open court without any security presence.

"We are also deeply grieved ... that our entitlements are not being paid as and when due by the State Government. My Lord is not unaware of the fact that our wardrobe allowances for the year 2015, 2016 and 2017 are yet unpaid till date. So also is our furniture allowances for 2014 and 2017.

"Kwara State Magistrates are amongst the lowest paid in the country. In view of the inadequate monthly salary, the non-payment of these allowances constitutes a grievous hardship upon us.

"The Kwara State judiciary is well known all over the country for her high level of integrity, and we make bold to say that the magistracy has contributed meaningfully to this reputation despite our poor financial conditions.

"It is only in this jurisdiction that up to four Magistrates share one single court room! Several courtrooms and Magistrates' chambers leak when it rains". They are therefore making the following demands:

Provision of an enabling working environment

Holistic review of security provisions both within and outside the court premises

Immediate payment of all outstanding allowances

Provision of cars/car grant to all magistrates

Amortisation of subsequent wardrobe and furniture allowances commencing from January 2018 and provision of housing scheme for all magistrates, among others.

There had been several meetings held by the body before the CJ was notified, it was gathered.

This reporter sighted two letters that were written by magistrates over the issue, the second of which was sent to the CJ signed by “All the Magistrates".

In one of the resolutions of the body after a meeting on Thursday 26th, October, 2017, held under the auspices of the Magistrates Association of Nigeria (MAN), Kwara State branch, the lower judges "instructed its executive to write the CJ informing him that Kwara State Magistrate would be going on strike 14 days from the date of receipt of the 2nd letter, if government refused to do the needful.

In the first letter that was written to the CJ, dated 22nd September, 2017, titled "Safety, Security and Welfare of Kware Magistrates: Quest for Urgent Redress", the magistrates thanked the CJ for the efforts so far in improving the welfare and working condition of Magistrates and lamented heavily about the working conditions.

They lamented the lack of security for the magistrates and specifically noted, "The brutal and heinous beheading of an Area Court judge in Yashikira.

Part of the letter reads:

"There was an emergency meeting of the Magistrates' Association of Nigeria, Kwara branch, which was held on the 11th September, 2017. At the meeting, it was unanimously resolved that a letter be written to your Lordship on our plight. "My Lord, we sit daily to secure remand of hardened criminals accused of armed robbery, cultism, culpable homicide, kidnapping, rituals, rape, burglary, house breaking and the likes, pending their proper arraignment and trial.

"It is clear…that the judicial duty we discharge is a hazardous one indeed. Of course our fears are not in the realm of the intangible.

"The brutal and heinous beheading of an Area Court judge in Yashikira, during the course of his duties some time ago, clearly indicates the height of danger that judges of the lower bench are exposed to as front line judicial officers.

"In the face of these dangers, no less than 90% of Magistrates live in rented apartments with no form of security to match the nature of hazard they are exposed to.

"Several Magistrates have no cars or have cars that are in unserviceable state. They therefore have to join public transport to and from work and to other places they wish to go and sometimes they come in contact with accused persons or their allies. This is even more worrisome for out-stationed Magistrates.

"Most Magistrates' chambers have no burglary proof or any form of security. In some courtrooms, the Magistrate, the litigants as well as accused persons pass through one and the same door! Some Magistrates do not have court orderlies. They therefore carry on their judicial duties in open court without any security presence.

"We are also deeply grieved ... that our entitlements are not being paid as and when due by the State Government. My Lord is not unaware of the fact that our wardrobe allowances for the year 2015, 2016 and 2017 are yet unpaid till date. So also is our furniture allowances for 2014 and 2017.

"Kwara State Magistrates are amongst the lowest paid in the country. In view of the inadequate monthly salary, the non-payment of these allowances constitutes a grievous hardship upon us.

"The Kwara State judiciary is well known all over the country for her high level of integrity, and we make bold to say that the magistracy has contributed meaningfully to this reputation despite our poor financial conditions.

"It is only in this jurisdiction that up to four Magistrates share one single court room! Several courtrooms and Magistrates' chambers leak when it rains".

Source

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