The Acting Chief Judge of Cross River State, Justice Eyo Effiom Ita, has said that only Governor Ben Ayade could determine the fate of the 29 magistrates who took to the streets on Tuesday in protest against the non-payment of their salaries in the last two years.
The magistrates who have in the last two years been holding courts and performing other adjudication matters were said to have not been properly employed because Governor Ayade did not sign off the approval for their recruitment into the state’s judiciary.
The state government, in its response to the protest by the magistrates, had, on Monday, advised them to sit down with the Attorney General of the state, Tanko Ashang, and iron out the grey areas in their irregular employment status.
Special Assistant to Governor Ayade on Media, Christian Ita, made that position known, when he responded to the sole protest by Her Lordship Safiya Iyeh Ashipu, Chief Magistrate of Odukpani Magisterial Division, who led her two children to the Government House with placards, demanding for her two years unpaid salaries.
The Cross River State Acting Chief Judge, Justice Eyo Effiom Ita, who spoke for the first time on the matter claimed that he was appointed in acting capacity less than three months ago, and as such would not know the exact months of salary arrears owed his junior colleagues.
Justice Eyo who spoke with newsmen in Calabar, the Cross River State capital said he was aware of the ugly situation his junior colleagues were passing through, adding that all entreaties to make the state government to pay the magistrates had failed.
“I was appointed Acting Chief Judge two and a half months ago. I heard that some Magistrates were appointed but the Governor said he did not give clearance for their appointment and so will not pay them,” Eyo said.
The Acting State Chief Judge expressed his frustration at salvaging the situation and pushed the ball back to the court of the governor, emphasising that there was nothing anyone could do to change the situation until Governor Ayade changed his disposition.
Justice Eyo affirmed at the media parley that all interventions had been made but the governor insisted that he never approved the employment of the magistrates and would not pay them.
At the Tuesday protest by the aggrieved magistrates who came to the Government House donning their full regalia, one of them, His Lordship, Richard Bassey, had slumped and was revived by his colleagues and some civil servants at the Governor’s office.
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