Sequel to the refusal of the Benue state government to pay workers salaries, a Federal High Court in Abuja has temporarily frozen the state’s accounts in Skye Bank, Zenith Bank, First Bank of Nigeria and First City Monument Bank following an application by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN).
The workers had applied to the court via an ex-parte application for an order to freeze the states’ accounts on the grounds that the state refused to release funds for the payment of wages and allowances of court workers in the state.
Justice Ademola Adeniyi gave the order on Monday while ruling on two ex-parte motions filed JUSUN which sought to attach the states’ accounts in the banks over their alleged refusal to pay about N1.6billion to satisfy the January 13, 2014 judgment given by the judge.
A copy of the judgment was obtained on Tuesday.
The judge ruled thus: “An order nisi is hereby made attaching the money belonging to the 15th and 16th judgment debtors/respondents domiciled with Skye Bank Plc, Makurdi Branch – account number 170008758 to satisfy the judgment awarded in favour of the judgment creditor/applicant.”
In a related development, a similar order was also issued against Plateau State’s accounts in the other banks.
The judge ordered the garnishee “to show cause why the order nisi should not be made absolute by the court.”
Justice Ademola, in the 2014 judgment, had affirmed the financial autonomy status granted the judiciary by the constitution and abolished the piecemeal funding of the arm of government by the state governments.
The union stated, in their ex-parte motions, that the amount due to Benue State judiciary “as at March 2015, is N957,630,349.57” and the amount due to the Plateau State judiciary for the same period is N673,019,948.19.
The governors and the Attorney-General of both states were listed as the 15th and 16th; 63rd and 64th defendants in the motions.
JUSUN said Benue and Plateau States, which were parties in the main suit, had “bluntly refused to obey the judgment of the court.”
It said judiciary of both states owe their workers, who are members of the union “arrears of salary and other funds due to them up to March 2015.”
They stated, in the supporting affidavits, that all efforts made to the state governments “to comply with the judgment of this honourable court fell on deaf ears.”
The case has been adjourned to June 1, three days after the May 29 date for the handover to the incoming administration.