The Cross River State Government has ordered 30 magistrates in the state who recently protested the non-payment of their salaries for two years to stay at home.
The state judiciary admitted in a January 4 letter to the magistrates that the government was unable to pay them since they were appointed in February 2019.
The letter was issued by the Chief Registrar of the state judiciary, Edem Okokon, who said he was authorised by the acting Chief Judge of the state.
“You are hereby withdrawn from sitting in court till further notice.
“There is no conscientious reason to have allowed you without pay for all this while as you may be tempted to fall into corrupt practices in order to survive. There are in fact, a handful of reports already received against some of such magistrates; hence this directive,” Okokon.
The registrar advised the magistrates to stay at home “until the issue of your salaries is settled.”
The government however didn’t state whether it will re-engage the magistrates after they are eventually paid.
The magistrates had recently protested,carrying placards and demanding their salaries.
One of the magistrates, Richard Bassey, collapsed at the gate of the governor’s office during the protest.
Speaking, the chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Calabar branch, Paul Ebiala, said “it is unacceptable” for the government not to pay the magistrates.
Ebiala said the government action could render the magistrates susceptible to bribery and corruption.
The government initially said the delay in the payment of the salaries was caused by “irregularities” in their employment, but Ebiala said such “irregularities” should have been corrected a long time ago.
The NBA National President, Olumide Akpata, had threatened to sue the Cross River State Government on behalf of the magistrates.
The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, Tanko Ashang, on Friday said he was aware of the development, but said he could not comment on it because “it is a judiciary matter.”