A civil society group –the Federation of Lawyers in Active Democracy (FLAD) – has accused Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State of ordering the severance of water and electricity supply to the official residence of the state’s embattled Chief Judge, Justice Nasir Ajana as part of the pressure to force him out of office.
The governor’s action, according to the group, is aimed at intimidating and overawing Ajana because he is not in the good books of the state government.
Reacting to last Monday’s resolution of the State House of Assembly demanding the removal of the Chief Judge from office, FLAD President Arome Husseini said the motion defied logic.
The statement dismissed as “null and void and of no effect whatsoever” what it described as yet another instance of Governor Bello’s intolerance of democratic institutions, the separation of power and the checks and balances guaranteed by the constitution.
The group said the 1999 Constitution as amended Section 271 ( 1) 292 (1) (ii) (a) and the third Schedule paragraph 21 part 1 of the constitution which provide for the removal of a Chief Judge of a state were totally ignored by the House.
It suspected that the Chief Judge’s travails may have begun on the day he resisted the governor’s alleged interference in a criminal case involving a ‘controversial federal legislator’ who was granted bail.
It recalled how the state government punished two former Speakers of the state’s legislature by denying them access to utilities, the same punishment now being visited on Justice Ajana.
It said: “a Speaker that was illegally installed was equally forced to resign within one year after he complained during public sitting that Governor Bello was harassing and intimidating him!
“In both cases, utilities like water, electricity and communications were severed from the official residences of these Speakers.
“Today the utilities of the learned Chief Judge and the Deputy Governor of the State have equally been disconnected – all in an effort to intimidate and overawe these state functionaries into becoming puppets and stooges like has been achieved in the State House of Assembly.”
It asked President Muhammadu Buhari to call the governor to order.
The group vowed to use legitimate means including petitions, demonstrations and litigations to protect the sacred institution of the judiciary from the governor.
However, responding to questions, Mr. Muhammad Galacticus Onogwu who is the Chief Press Secretary to the governor said Bello’s political successes had inspired endless mischievous reactions from embittered political opponents.
His words:”generally, the water system in Lokoja is under maintenance so, the shortage of water is across board and as I am talking to you, I am running a generator like any other person here in Lokoja.
“The talk about us owing the state’s judiciary staff about 10 months’ salary because of the Chief Judge’s travails is a big lie; when the Federal Government gave us the Paris Club refund of about N13 billion in November last year, labour leaders and the state government agreed on collection of four months’ outstanding salary by every worker in person.
“The judiciary workers refused to participate in the pay parade exercise for reasons best known to them and their salaries are lying there in the bank but they went on strike and even sued the state government.
“We do not have any issue with the Chief Judge because the Kogi State government under Governor Yahaya Bello does not interfere with either the Judiciary or the legislature.
“We are approaching the period of another gubernatorial election in Kogi State and those who are afraid of what the government has achieved thus far are already afraid of a big loss in the November election so, they are resorting t mischief because we have kept winning.