Seven judges of the Plateau State Judiciary have accused Governor Simon Lalong of unlawfully withholding their accommodation allowances of N119,112,840 over a period of four to five years.
They said five judicial officers had been left unpaid for five years, while two others were being owed for four years.
The judges alleged that Lalong, a lawyer, deliberately seized their entitlements while paying other judicial officers regularly.
They made the allegations in a September 8 letter to Governor Lalong by their lawyer, Chief Adeniyi Akintola, SAN.
When contacted for the government’s side of the story, Plateau State Commissioner for Information Dan Mangjan said he was in a meeting. He consented to receiving the enquiry by text, but had yet to respond at press time.
The judges are Justices Muhammad l. Sirajo; Christine L. Dabup; Arum I. Ashom; Ilya I. Kunda; Samson P. Gang; Nanpon J. Dadi and Naflsa L. Musa.
Lalong, they said, gave no reason for the delay in payment or his refusal to do so.
They threatened that unless he complied within two weeks, they would file a lawsuit against him.
The letter signed by Matthew Opukumo for Chief Akintola, reads:
“We have our Clients’ instructions to the effect that by the Act which prescribes salaries and allowances for judicial officers nationwide, it is the exclusive responsibility of the various State Governments to provide all judicial officers roofs over their heads and ensure ease of their mobility to wit; provision of vehicles and decent accommodation for them.
“To this end, the state is obliged to either provide a decent and furnished accommodation for the judges or pay them 200 per cent of their annual basic salary in lieu of accommodation.
“Our Clients informed us further that in Plateau State, the government has over the years found it more convenient to pay judges 200 per cent of their annual basic salary yearly in lieu of accommodation until the year 2015 when same stopped.
“To our Clients’ surprise, fellow judges and judicial officers of the Customary Court of Appeal have been paid their accommodation allowance up to the year 2019.”
Chief Akintola stated that the judges were in the dark as to why such treatment was meted out to them.
He said “the basis for this discrimination remains unknown.
“Whilst our Clients’ allowances were left unpaid and have remained unpaid till date, the Plateau State Government, in an unprecedented manner, went ahead to pay a whopping three years’ accommodation allowance in advance to brother judges, who were appointed in May, 2019.”
The lawyer described the state government’s action as “rather strange, worrisome, discriminatory, unfair, discouraging and at best described as adding salt to injury.”
He said the Plateau State Government is indebted to each of the first five judicial officers for the period of 2016 to 2020 (five years) in the manner stated below:
“Annual basic salary: N1,804,740.20 (200 percent of basic salary = N3,609,480.00)
“Accommodation allowance for the period of five years is N3,609,480.00 x five years = N18,047,400.”
He added: “As for our Clients listed in 6 & 7 above, their outstanding accommodation allowance is for four years covering the year 2017 to 2020. Hence, the accommodation allowance due to each of them is as stated in the manner below:
“N3, 609,480.00 x four years = N14, 437,920.
“The sum total of the accommodation allowance due to our Clients listed as 1 to 5 is N90,237,000.00 whilst that of those listed as numbers 6 to 7 is N28,875,840.
“Grand total of accommodation allowance due to our Clients is N119,112,840.
“….Sequel to the above, Your Excellency Sir, we hereby, on behalf our Clients demand the immediate payment of our Clients’ statutory entitlements within 2 (Two) weeks of the receipt of this letter. Our Clients’ allowances have remained unpaid for 4 and 5 years respectively with no reasons adduced for the delay in payment or its refusal.
“Your Excellency Sir, we urge you to allow good counsel prevail by paying our Clients’ allowances within the period stipulated in this letter as we already have our Clients instructions to approach a competent court of law for redress should you fail to meet their demand as contained herein.