Magistrates In Cross River Resume Protest Over Unpaid 26 Months Salaries - EazyFeeds

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Tuesday 23 March 2021

Magistrates In Cross River Resume Protest Over Unpaid 26 Months Salaries

 Magistrate in Cross River State have resumed their protest in Calabar over their 26 months unpaid salaries.

The magistrates, who were 29 in number, manned the entrance of the Government House, Calabar, displaying placards with various inscriptions such as: “29 esquires are in penury, pay us our 26 months salaries”and “Ayade, stop oppressing Cross River Judiciary, pay us our salaries”.

They had on January 8 protested while it was still 24 months unpaid salary arrears but had to dialogue with the state government to find amicable ways to sort out the imbroglio which has apparently failed.

According to the leader of the group and a Chief Magistrate with the state judiciary, Solomon Abuo, they suspended the January protest to allow the government to pay them.

Abuo said while they were waiting, the governor invited them to a meeting where a committee headed by the deputy governor, Prof Ivara Esu, was constituted and given one week to look into the issues and submit a report so they could be paid.

“That meeting took place on January 19, so we waited till the end of January and nothing happened. So, we went to the deputy governor and he told us that they couldn’t conclude their work within one week,” he said.

“He told us that it would not be possible for us to receive January salaries, that we would start receiving our salaries from February because by then they would be done with their report.

“Even when Mr Olumide Akpata, President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), came to Calabar and had a meeting with the state government and proffered suggestions on how the issue could be resolved, nothing was done.

“Recently, we learnt that the committee had completed its work and sent its recommendations to the governor and the governor has still refused to act on it.

“We have given the governor enough time and made some concessions which are four possible options on how to add us to the payroll system and pay us but nothing is being done.

“If the government was sincere, it would have taken one of the options but the report was sent before February salaries were paid, now we are in March, making it 26 months.”

He added that they had had three meetings with the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Akon Ikpeme, and she said she was doing something about the issue and needed more time.

One of the the magistrates had last year told SaharaReporters that they had not been paid since September 2019.

“On February 1, 2019, a total of 46 new magistrates were duly appointed and sworn into office by the then Chief Judge of Cross River State, Hon. Justice Michael Edem (now retired),” he said.

“The appointment followed due process involving thorough screening, interview, and necessary documentation exercises conducted by the State Judicial Service Commission, being the body statutorily empowered to employ and exercise disciplinary control over judicial officers of the magistracy cadre in Cross River State.

“Since then, all the magistrates have undergone necessary professional training including a two-month attachment to courts and a mandatory induction course at the National Judicial Institute (NJI), Abuja. Also, magistrates have since been posted/assigned to various magistrate courts across the state where they are still working and discharging their responsibilities till date, yet none of them has been paid.

“It is important to note though parenthetically that the JSC is created under section 202 of the 1999 constitution and also its independence is statutorily guaranteed. Therefore, in exercising its power to appoint magistrates and exercise disciplinary control over them, the JSC is not subject to control by any other authority or person including the governor. With reference to Section 9 of the Judicial Service Commission Law, Cap J2 Vol.3 Laws of Cross River State of Nigeria 2004.

“Another twist is that out of the total of 46 new magistrates, only about 30 are fresh appointments, the rest were already civil servants whose names were already on the payroll but merely transferred their services to the Judiciary as magistrates, (my source said this is very much allowed and has always been done in the past, this is not the first time).

“In April 2020, the state Judicial Service Commission in a bid to pander to the yearning of His Excellency conducted a screening exercise where they attempted to reduce the number of the new magistrates to 19 and further recommended the return of all those on transfer back to the various MDAs where they came from. Yet the governor has refused to pay even one person till date.”

He further alleged that the governor in September 2019, acting on the advice of his Special Adviser on Payroll, John Odey, illegally, unjustifiably and unceremoniously removed the names of over 2,000 civil servants from government payroll. 

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