Calabar, Cross River State – Magistrates in Cross River on Monday blocked the entrance to the governor’s office in Calabar to protest 24 months unpaid salaries.
The magistrates assembled at the governor’s office from the 18 local government areas of the state.
They wielded placards with inscriptions like “we have right to employment’’, “Magistrates in Cross River are thrown out of their rented apartments’’, “Ayade, pay us.’’
Speaking on behalf of the group, Mr Solomon Abuo, Chief Magistrate to the government of Cross River said the protest was their last resort.
Abuo said they had continued to discharge their duties to the state government to date in spite of non-payment of their salaries.
“We have courts that we are heading and we have been working for the state government to bring about peace and tranquility to the society.
“Yet the governor does not dim it fit to pay us our salaries in spite of our entreaties, pleas, letters, correspondences, screening after screening.
“After our employment and swearing in, we went through four screenings; in each of them, the governor will ignore the report requesting him to pay us our salaries, so this is our last resort.
“Right now, we have 30 magistrates affected across the 18 local government areas of the state; funny enough, the governor’s local government has the highest number and the state does not care.
“Is it wrong for one to serve the state as judicial officers? Are we supposed to go through this kind of humiliation? Those are the questions to which we want answers.
“We are all family men with children in schools; we cannot pay children’s school fees.
“Last year one of the magistrates was arraigned before a fellow magistrate for inability to pay house rent. Most of us can’t pay our house rents; we are squatting with colleagues and all that.
“Our prayer is that our 24 months’ salary be paid with immediate effect, otherwise we will continue this protest and stop sittings in courts until we are paid,’’ he said.
Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Justice Eyo Effiom-Ita, Acting Chief Judge of Cross River, said he was aware of the situation, but did not know for how many months the magistrates had not been paid.
“I was appointed Acting Chief Judge two and a half months ago and I heard that some magistrates were appointed, but the governor said he did not give clearance for their appointments and would not pay them.
“Until Gov. Ben Ayade changes his disposition, there is nothing anybody can do.
“Otherwise, all representations have been made, but the governor is holding firm that he never approved their employment,’’ Justice Effiom-Ita said.