From Judex Okoro, Calabar
Protesting magistrates in Cross River State have said they are still in the employ of the state government, insisting that the reasons for ‘withdrawing us from court are not tenable.’
Governor Ben Ayade had a few days ago ordered the sack of 30 magistrates protesting the non-payment of two years worth of salaries.
Their withdrawal letter was contained in a letter signed on behalf of the acting Chief Judge of the state, Eyo Effiom Ita, by Chief Registrar Edem N Okokon.
The letter stated that since the state has been unable to pay them since February 2019 when they were engaged, they had been withdrawn from sitting in any court until further notice.
Reacting to the letter from the state government in an interview in Calabar at the weekend, the leader of the distressed magistrates, Solomon Abuo, said they are deliberating on it, objecting to the dismissals, pointing to civil service rules.
Abuo said the letter is a tacit way of rendering them redundant by asking them to go and stay at home for an indefinite period ‘on an allegation that some of us receive gratification.’
‘The reasons for withdrawing us from court are not tenable. One of the reasons is that since a lot of us have not been paid since 2019, they have received reports of some magistrates among us that may have been compromised.
‘If there is any such incident, it is the Judicial Service Commission that should handle it on a case by case basis and deal with it. Not what they are trying to do now.
‘We are judicial officers and people who are law-abiding. We have tried to comply with that letter by staying at home. But we shall pursue our matter till we get justice because we were employed legally and have handled some sensitive cases before now,’ Abuo said.