Human rights activist in Edo State, Barrister Olayiwola Afolabi, during the week staged a one-man protest at the Edo State High Court Complex on Sapele Road, Benin City, even as residents were busy enjoying New Year celebrations.
In the protest that also took him to Edo State Ministry of Justice; office of Edo State Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice Mr. Henry Idahagbon, the lawyer called on Idahagbon to resign for being unable to pay seven months of unpaid salary of Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN).
Carrying a placard reading: ‘Edo government pay judiciary workers’, he also called for the resignation of the Chairman of Edo State Chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Emmanuel Ademokun, for making excuses for Edo government even when NLC makes deductions from the salaries of judiciary workers.
Afolabi alleged that apart from the judicial staff that were being owed, a cross section of staff of the Ministry of Justice including Magistrates, Presidents of Area Customary Courts and Clerical officers were also owed salary arrears, contrary to claims by the state government that it owed no state civil servants any salary and a clean bill of health passed on the government by the state NLC leadership.
Tracing the non-payment of seven months of JUSUN salaries to a case instituted by JUSUN against Edo State in a Federal High Court Abuja, Afolabi, who alleged that the unpaid workers were being treated as slaves in their own country and state, criticised Edo State NLC leadership for “shamefully hero-worshipping the Comrade Governor over the prompt payment of December salaries when the judicial staff are groaning under non-payment,” despite the fact that Governor Oshiomhole famously climbed on the back of the judiciary to regain his stolen popular mandate at the courts in 2008.
At the premises of the Ministry of Justice, Afolabi expressed regrets over the death of an unnamed female staff that recently lost her life to an illness owing to her inability to pay the cost of medical services necessary to keep her alive.
He further alleged that even Edo State government-employed lawyers were usually forced to spend their personal money whenever they prosecute cases outside Edo State as funds meant for such journeys are neither released nor refunded later and, therefore, earnestly asked that the Edo State Ministry of Justice be re-named ministry of injustice.
Effort to speak with Edo AG, Idahagbon, was not rewarded as he was said to be away from office on the day.