Posted by News Express | 23 December 2016 | 2,283 times
Governor Willie Obiano.
Thirty-two retired judges, including five retired state Chief Judges in Anambra State, led by Justice Godwin Ononiba (retd.), have dragged Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano, to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in Awka for non-payment of their severance gratuity, upward review of pensions, arrears of housing allowances and overall welfare. Also joined in the suit tagged complaint No: NICN/Awk/43/2016 filed by their lawyer, Gabriel Udoka Moneke, is the Attorney-General of Anambra State.
The action of the retired judges drew the praises of some senior lawyers, including Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, Yusuf Ali, SAN, Femi Falana, SAN, and others, who commended them for using the instrumentality of the law to fight their cause. Of the 32 retired judges, 13 of them are dead, while 19 are still alive, including five former chief judges.
The former retired chief judges are G.U. Ononiba, C.J. Okoli, Nri-Ezedi, E.A. Nzegwu, and P.A.C Obidigwe, who are members of the Association of Retired Judges of Anambra State.
Part of the suit reads: “You are hereby commanded that within fourteen days after the service of this complaint on you, inclusive of the day of such service, you do cause an appearance to be entered for you in an action at the suit of HON. JUSTICE G.U. ONONIBA C.J. (Rtd) & 31 Ors, and take note that in default of your so doing, the claimants may proceed therein, and judgement may be given in your absence.”
The claimants are praying the court for: “A declaration that each of the 1st-19th claimants and each of the estates of the 20th to 2nd claimants are entitled to be paid severance gratuities based on 300% of each claimant’s annual basic salary while in active service.
“A declaration that each of the 1st to 19th claimants and each of the estates of the 20th to 32nd claimants are entitled to be paid housing allowances per annum and in the tune of 200% of each claimant’s annual basic salary.
“A declaration that the 1st defendant does not have the power to amend, alter or vary the provisions of an Act of the National Assembly and in particular the “certain political, public and judicial office holders (salaries and allowances, etc) (Amendment) Act No. 1 of 2008 which took effect from 1st February, 2007.
“A declaration that each of the 1st – 19th claimants and each of estates of the 20th to 32nd claimants is entitled to an upward review of each of the claimant’s pension in line with Section 210(3) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“An order of court directing the defendants to pay to the 1st-19th claimants and the estates of 20th-32nd claimants forthwith their severance gratuities, based on 300% of annual basic salary of each of the claimants while in active service.
“An order of court directing the defendants to pay the 1st-19th claimants and the estates of the 20th to 32nd claimants forthwith the arrears of their housing allowances based on 200% of their annual basic salary.
“An order of court directing the defendants to recompute the pensions and gratuities of the claimants based on 200% of their annual basic salaries as housing allowance.
“An order of court directing the defendants to pay to the claimants the arrears of their respective pension and gratuities from the withheld 100% of their annual basic salary as housing allowance. “An order of court directing the defendants to pay to each of the 1st-19th claimants and the estates of the 20th to 32nd claimants all the balance and arrears of their pensions which would have accrued to them had the pensions been reviewed upward in line with the provision of the constitution and the directives of the salaries and wages commission.”
The retired judges (claimants) stated that they had at different times meritoriously and successfully served as judges of the Anambra State High Court and Customary Court of Appeal but were forgotten and abandoned without payment of their due benefits, allowances and entitlements. The Association of the Retired Judges was formed pursuant to the directive of the Chief Justice of Nigeria in a letter addressed to all judges, dated July, 10, 2010. The claimants averred that they had on May, 5, 2016, issued and served on the defendants, through the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, and the office of the 2nd defendant respectively, the three months mandatory notice of intention to institute the legal action against them, adding that no response came from them.