Chiemeka ADINDU, Calaba
Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Calabar branch, Dr. Paul Ebiala says the NBA has stepped into the lingering face-off between the state government and magistrates in the state.
He told TNN in an interview that the NBA had to step in to address the matter as it also concerned lawyers in the state. He noted that they had scheduled a meeting on Friday with the deputy governor to ascertain what the government was doing about the matter.
He said: “It is true that we had a joint meeting with them and I mean the three branches of the Nigerian Bar Association in Cross River State, Calabar, Ogoja and Ikom.
“Since this is a state wide issue, the three branches decided to come together and we had that meeting with them on how best to solve their problem because their problem is our problem and so we will not just allow them to continue to suffer when we are here and since they cannot fight their cause; so we decided to come together to see what we can do.
“So the long and short story of what we discussed, they hinted us that they were going back to the streets but we had already in the course of our discussion, spoken with the deputy governor who is made the chairman of a committee handling their matter and we had fixed an appointment with him to see him on Friday. So because of that, we are saying it would rather be a disservice to the deputy governor to fix a meeting with him.
“We’ve not heard from him and we still go to the streets so that’s why we told them to calm down first. If they had waited for 26 months, this one week will not destroy them completely.
“That is what we did and we are waiting to have that meeting with the deputy governor, hoping that we will be briefed by him on how far the government has gone then thereafter we will know what next step to take. So that was the situation. Hopefully we will be able to know the situation by Friday when we hear from him”.
Two months ago, the chief registrar of the state Judiciary, Edem N. Okokon had sent a letter to magistrates who have not been paid their 24 months salaries in the state informing them about their withdrawal from court sitting. The situation raised many dusts and reactions as many citizens frowned at the decision.
Responding to this, the affected magistrates brought a release signed by their coordinators, Solomon Abuo and Arit Edem, where they said they were not willing to forfeit the salaries. They appealed to the state government to attend to their unpaid salaries as they are suffering. They used several means, including demonstrations to drive their point home.
Sadly, the state government is yet to clear the salaries of these magistrates. Speaking with TNN over the telephone, coordinator of the magistrates, Solomon Abuo confirmed that the situation had been like that as they have not been given any clear information on what the government is doing or have done so far. “The matter is still lingering.
“We have approached the new chief judge and she appealed to us to give her time to see the governor. She was sworn in on the 8th of January and resumed work the following week.
“So she asked for time and we’ve given her time so we were planning a protest next Monday but, we will not go on with that protest because the NBA chairmen of the three branches in Cross River state met with us and appealed with us to cancel the protest and give them time for them to speak with the governor and then get back to us. They’re going to have a meeting next week Friday with the Deputy Governor. This issue has lasted for 26 months.”