STATE Counsel in the Ebonyi State Ministry of Justice under the aegis of Law Officers Association of Nigeria, LOAN, Ebonyi State chapter, today begun an indefinite boycott of all Government cases in Court over what it described as the present administration’s inability and unwillingness to take care of the welfare of Law officers in the State.
Following the boycott, judicial activities at the Ebonyi State Judiciary was today crippled due to the absence of State Counsel to attend to cases as private practitioners, litigants were cited loitering around the court premises.
Also, the Officers and Men of the Nigeria Correctional Services were found stranded with the awaiting trial inmates confused and helpless. When Our Correspondent visited the Court premises, it was observed that the State Counsel from the Ebonyi State Ministry of Justice were seen protesting over what they described as gross and unwholesome neglect of their welfare by the Ebonyi State Government.
Investigation revealed that they decided to boycott court sittings in order to get the present administration to address issues bordering on poor remuneration, non funding of government cases and government refusal to accommodate them in the payment of the National Minimum Wage.
In a chat with Newsmen in Abakaliki, the Chairman, Law Officers Association of Nigeria, LOAN, Ebonyi Chapter, Barr. Ogbuinya Ndubuisi who appealed to the State Government to look into the welfare of Law officers in the State explained that lots of memos and correspondences on the subject matter have been written and sent to the State Government but has not yielded the desired result.
Ogbuinya who is also the Principal State Counsel in the State Ministry of Justice noted that their contemporaries in Enugu, Abia, Anambra and Imo States were being treated better than them in terms of welfare packages.
He called on the State Government to urgently look into the issues raised by LOAN as the boycott on Government cases will continue indefinitely untill their requests are addressed holistically.
“The Law Officers have been doing their best to conduct Government cases to the best of their ability and won a lot of cases.
“If you go to Enugu Correctional Centre, over 60% of inmates are from conviction secured by Law Officers from the Ministry of Justice, Ebonyi State but the problem is that we do this work with our own resources.
“We virtually take care of everything that has to do with prosecuting Government matter ranging from paying official witnesses to come to court and and give witnesses, ranging from paying transportation to different jurisdiction within the state to do Government cases even outside Jurisdiction.
“Most atimes, when you embark on this journey and come back and write facts about the expenses, you don’t get anything from it but the worst is that there is a document that harmonizes the condition of service of Law Officers and that of Magistrate and Judiciary that took effect from the first Executive Governor of the State.
“That document emanated from the Attorney General of the Federation, wherein our welfare is harmonized with that of the Magistrate and it has been like that until 2 years before Governor Martin Elechi left office. He approved N200,000 to the Magistrate outside allowance, leaving us behind; we have written several Memos to that effect all to no avail.
“The most recent is the 2020 Minimum Wage where every Civil Servants got their stake but we all at the Ministry of Justice were outrightly excluded, not even a kobo was added to us. We used to have two (2) domestic servants but somewhere along the line, they removed one (1) even the remaining one that survived it, it is not worth the circular provided that we are being paid for.
“It may surprise you that in the entire State, we are only 30 Lawyers covering all the Magistrate Courts, all the High Courts, Industrial Courts, all the Federal High Courts, Court of Appeal and so on; the workload is much but there is no commiserate renumeration to that effect.”
All efforts to get the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Barr. Cletus Ofoke and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Barr. Albert Alo to react to the development proved Abortive as none of them answered their calls or replied to the text messages sent to their phones.
Our Correspondent further gathered that the lawyers were determined to continue their boycott of government cases in court and will remain in their offices as civil servants until their grievances are addressed, as they cannot continue to fund government cases from their meager salaries. Ends