Magistrates in Cross River State, on Monday, staged a protest at the Governor’s Office in Calabar over the non-payment of their 24 months’ salaries.
The magistrates, who came from the 18 local government areas of the state, blocked the second gate leading to the governor’s office.
They carried placards with inscriptions such as: ‘No Bliss, no blush, we are not crystallised nor olumposized, Cross River State magistrates in penury’, and ‘We have right to employment’; ‘Magistrates in Cross River State are thrown out of their rented apartments, Ayade pay us’.
Speaking on behalf of the aggrieved magistrates, the Chief Magistrate to the Cross River State Government, Solomon Abuo, said the protest was their last resort.
He stated, “We are protesting the non-payment of our 24 months’ salaries; this is January and we have been discharging our duties to the state government.
“We have courts that we are heading and we have been working for the state government to bring about peace and tranquillity to the society yet, the governor does not deem it fit to pay us our salaries despite our entreaties, pleas, letters, correspondences and screening upon screening.
“After our employment and swearing in, we have undergone further four screenings and each of them the governor ignores 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 LGAs of the state. Funny enough, the governor’s local government has the highest number of 11 magistrates, who are affected, 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? That’s the question we want an answer to.”
Abuo added, “We are all family men with children in school; we cannot pay our children’s school fees. Last year, one of the magistrates was arraigned before a fellow magistrate for inability to pay rent. Most of us can’t pay our rents; we are squatting with colleagues.
“Our prayer is that our 24 months’ salaries be paid with immediate effect, otherwise we will continue this protest and stop sitting in courts until we are paid.”
Governor Ben Ayade and his deputy, Prof. Ivara Esu, were not in the office during the protest and no government official addressed the protesting magistrates as of the time of filing this report.