Come next week the students of Anambra State University who have spent over 6 months at home following the failure of South Eastern Governors led by Mr. Peter Obi of Anambra State, to settle with the Academic Staff Union of Universities will resume classes.
The ASUU demands which led to the closure of the university include the improvement of their working conditions, proper funding of the state universities by the provision of basic classroom and research facilities, as well as adequate remuneration for the lecturers in line with what their colleagues in the federal universities earn. Under the new salary scale for Federal Universities, professors earn approximately N450, 000.00 per month while the least paid lecturers earn approximately N200,000.00 per month.
But some States, including the five Southeast States of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo, are claiming that they are unable to pay so much in view of their disproportionate income from both the federation account and internal sources.
Since July 2010 when the strike started, series of negotiation between the university teachers and the governments of the five states have taken place but each had ended in a deadlock. The universities have since remained closed, while the students are idle with the possibility of losing an entire semester staring at them. Already, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has directed students seeking admission for the next academic session not enter any of the State owned South Eastern States in their application forms. The news on the resumption of classes is not as result of settlement of the lecturers’ demands by the South East Governments but as a result of ‘divide and rule strategy’ employed by the Government which broke the unity of purpose in the ASUU of South East. First to break out was Ebonyi State branch which called off the strike in December 2010 without resolving their demands. Anambra State ASUU followed suit when it dawned on them that Governor Peter Obi, the “education friendly governor” who sacked the University Vice Chancellor for not breaking the ranks of the local ASUU is not bothered that the university may be under lock and keys up till the time he leaves office.
In the same vein, on Monday January 17, 2011, the Judiciary Staff Union (JUSUN) of Anambra State High Court resumed their strike over the failure of Anambra State Government to settle the long standing issues of wages and allowances for the judicial staff. Similarly by the first week of February 2011 doctors in Anambra State will also embark on an indefinite strike action following the refusal of the State Government to pay them the consolidated salaries and allowances negotiated between the Nigerian
Medical Association (NMA) and Federal/State Governments.
While all these strikes and events are happening and looming, the Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi is busy distributing over 200 vehicles (Sedans and SUV) which he is giving away as Christmas gifts to Judges of Anambra State origin serving at Federal High Courts, High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, State High Courts other Anambra State, the Court of Appeal and Customary Courts of Appeal outside Anambra State. From the largesse each of the Judges of the High Courts were given a Toyota saloon car while their counter parts at the Court of Appeal were given a Nissan SUV otherwise called Jeep. It is understood that over N1 Billion has been spent on the auto bonanza which has no sub head in the 2010 budget of Anambra State. The same amount of money was equally spent by Obi in the bribing of the five judges who delivered two judgments in Obi’s favour at the Anambra State Election Petition Tribunal.
The game plan of the Governor in embarking on the auto bonanza is to subtly enlist the support of Anambra judges, particularly those in the Court of Appeal to woo their colleagues who are set to deliver judgments in three of the appeals at the Court of Appeal Enugu. Incidentally the panel hearing the appeal is headed by Justice Amina Augie who hails from Onitsha, Anambra State but married to late Senator Adamu Augie of Kebbi State as fourth wife. Other members of the panel are Justice Raphael Agbo, Hussein Mukthar, Mojeed Owoade and Igwe Agube. Justice Augie being an indigene of Anambra State is yet collect her own Nissan Jeep from Obi. Sources said that she would be presented with her own automobile and other ‘goodies’ after her panel would have delivered judgments affirming the ‘victory’ of Obi in the governorship election in which over 85 per cent of the electorate could not cast their votes.. Other beneficiaries of the Obi “car largesse” include Hon. Justices Regina Nwodo, Tessy Orji-Abadua, Uzo Ndukwe-Anyanwu, Chinwe Iyizoba of Court of Appeal.
While Obi is wasting the scarce state resources in bribing judges of Anambra State origin, the state judiciary is groaning under the yoke of starvation of funds and total neglect from the executive arm of the government. It would be recalled that the Chief Judge of Anambra State, Hon. Justice Paul Obidigwe had at the opening of the legal year on the 1st of November 2010 lamented the neglect and deprivation the State Judiciary had undergone in the hands of the executive arm of the Anambra State Government headed by Mr. Obi. According to the Chief Judge in his speech at the occasion:
“Our Judges and Magistrates have continued to sit under dilapidated and in some cases, leaking roofs. The roofs, ceilings and walls of most of our Courts are decaying due to old age. They are yearning for repairs and renovations but the Judiciary is ill funded and unable to effect the necessary repairs and renovation. We are grateful to a philanthropist businessman at Nnewi who renovated High Court 1. He however chose to remain anonymous. May God continue to increase his blessing. We shall gladly welcome the gestures of other philanthropists who can help us renovate any of our dilapidating infrastructure at the High Courts, Magistrate’s Courts and Customary Courts.
The greatest problem of this court administration is poor funding which has adversely affected our infrastructural development. We are, as a result, unable to cope with the repairs and renovations of our old buildings, neither can we embark upon construction of new ones. With the exception of Ogidi High Court building which was commissioned on the 19th day of May 2010, no Judicial Division or Magisterial District has leak-free roof and adequate furniture. Yet we are still owing the contractor that built the Ogidi High Court Complex.
In all other Judicial Divisions and Magisterial Districts, the ancient buildings under which we operate as offices and Court halls are suffering from long neglect and lack of maintenance. Even the new High Court complex at Onitsha Judicial Division (commissioned in 2009) is worse than the old buildings. The architectural framework and electrical wiring are but exhibition of incompetence and bad workmanship. We have spent a lot of money to rectify the electrical fault but without success. The Aguata and Ihiala Judicial Divisions of the High Court are still operating under the ancient buildings that were erected in early 1970’s and have never been maintained nor renovated since then. The situations at the Magistrate’s Courts and Customary Courts are worse. Many of them are sitting under the decaying ancient colonial buildings.
Many of the Judiciary official quarters have been rendered uselessly unhabitable for lack of maintenance. These include, the official quarters at Hill top, Park Road, Ridge Road, and Nkisi Road. Judicial officers allocated these quarters were not able to park in because they could not afford the cost of the repairs and renovations involved. The Chief Judge has not been able to park into the Chief Judge’s lodge even at its stage of completion, because we have no money to create access road and extend electricity to the building. Our pleas to the government for release of Capital Vote to enable us pay the contractor and make the place habitable have not yielded positive results. The fitting therein are gradually being pilfered.
… The official quarters occupied by some of our Honourable Judges and learned Magistrates have not been maintained or renovated for a long time.
As a result some of them are becoming almost uninhabitable due to lack of maintenance. The roofs are leaking, septic tanks and soak away pits and the fencing walls are collapsing due to old age. Unless urgent steps are taken to rehabilitate them they may become completely uninhabitable like those mentioned above. The need for residential quarters for the Honourable Judges cannot be overemphasized. It is a condition precedent for appointment of additional Judges. The National Judicial Council (NJC) has now made it compulsory that a Judge must live within the Judicial Division of his Court”.
On the judicial workers strike and the reaction of the State Government, the Chief Judge lamented thus:
“It is unfortunate that up till now the government has not published the report of the Committee set up to determine the financial implications of their demand. The issue of their salaries that were held for two months did not provoke them, rather they patiently pleaded and waited. I salute the patience and understanding of our staff. May I seize this opportunity to call upon the Government of Anambra State to graciously consider the case of JUSUN and take urgent step to implement the CONJUS as many states, including Imo State, have done”.
Of course the appeal fell on deaf ears.
We understand that the grouse of the Governor with the State Judiciary particularly, the Chief Judge is not unconnected with the last governorship election about a year ago where the Governor lost in the Ayamelum local government area to Andy Uba, then of Labour Party. The Governor was said to be enraged that the Chief Judge allowed Andy Uba to out rig him in the area. In the INEC result from the area, Obi scored 4322 votes while Andy Uba scored 6301 votes thereby making it impossible for Obi to get his much needed 25% of the votes cast in the local government to be declared winner.
With the education and health sectors along with the judiciary now in comatose state in Anambra State who will call the Governor to order as he continues to waste the scarce resources of the State bribing judges in order to stave off all legal challenges to his “Iwu made election” of February 2010? Who will save Anambra State which has no State House of Assembly?, a public commentator
Emma Aduaka lives in Nimo, Njikoka LGA, Anambra State