By Jonathan Ugbal
“When did private business of lawyers become a matter for Facebook and debate? You guys in Cross River State are very idle. This can never happen in Lagos. I run the MOJ (Ministry of Justice) from my pocket bc (because) the state is broke. A word from you again (I) will show you who l am, Ok.”
-Joe Oshie Abang, Cross River Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice
Following the outburst and claim of the Attorney General (AG) and Commissioner for Justice in Cross River State, Barrister Joe Oshie Abang that he runs the Ministry of Justice from his pocket, a cross section of Cross Riverians have berated the Attorney General and questioned the rational behind his claim.
Here are some of the views of Cross Riverians who spoke to our reporter:
Veronica Atobe, a civil servant in the state told CrossRiverWatch that “The AG may not be wrong. Many of the ministries are not given their imprest as we hear. And if the governor does not give them money, what do you expect the commissioners to do? They must dip hands in their pockets to make sure their offices run since they have accepted the job. But that is not for the AG to say in public or in a private chat with a lawyer. Is he competing with his boss who once told us too that he runs the state from his pocket?
Catherine Inah, a hotelier in Calabar wondered what the AG was doing for a living before he got his new job. “What was the job and salary of the AG before his appointment for him to say such rubbish. What was the worth of his private practice before his appointment? Let him bring his records of how much he has spent so that Cross Riverians will pay him back.”
Uduak Iseme, a tricycle rider told our reporter that “See, I am a jobless university graduate with second class lower. Why is the AG wasting his money on the state. He should come and spend it on me and I am sure he will not regret it. When they go and stay in Lagos and do 419 and build house, they start feeling they have arrived abi? Leave me please Mr. Journalist.”
For Honorable Paul Adah, a two term member of the House of Representatives under the People’s Democratic Party and now APC chieftain in the state, Abang may be telling the truth.
“If he has been going on official assignment for months and has not received any dime from his principal then he must have been doing that” Paul said and when this reporter informed him that information at his disposal suggests that imprest has been paid to ministries excluding departments and agencies, he simply replied: “I wouldn’t know, I am not part of what they are doing, but the man may be telling the truth.”
“There’s something confusing about Cross River State Government. Why do they always say they run the state from their pockets? Is it that the state is so broke? What exactly is the true position of the state of our economy? Comments like these send a very wrong message to the world, especially to investors. The state is definitely bigger than one man, you cannot run it from your pocket” said a development consultant based in the United States, Princewill Odidi on his facebook wall.
For Barrister Okoi Obono-Obla, the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Prosecution, “It is the most uncomplimentary , unsavory, outrageous and indeed uncharitable remark to come from somebody who is constitutionally and conventionally the Chief Law Officer of the State, the Chief Prosecutor of the State, the Chief Legal Adviser of the State!
“Maybe, the AG is borrowing a leaf from his principal, Senator Ben Ayade who several months ago boasted that he is running the State with his money? How can the Governor in the wildest imagination make such a gross and wild utterance? How can a lawyer in the exalted position amplify and replicate the unguarded remark of his boss! He should know better!”
Also, Obla said he could not fathom why the AG will say such when every Ministry, Department and Agency has a budget that it is supposed to be operating with.
“The comment accredited to the Attorney General of Cross River State that he runs the Ministry of Justice from his private pocket is a misfired statement. A big gaffe from a gaffer who has consistently gaffed about everything, from declaring people wanted to threatening people with court orders and lawsuits” said Ifere Paul.
He further described the AG as “A bully whose sanity ought to have been checked before his appointment. An Attorney General who can make this type of comment is capable to selling verdicts to meet up the running of the Ministry. If we should run a forensic audit on the Attorney General’s financial dealings, we will be surprised.”
Adeseun Gbade, an insurer in Calabar asked our reporter “How much tax was his company paying before he joined public service. When we know how much his tax returns is, we can know whether he has the financial muscle to live up to that claim. If he has that much capacity, then he should also be the target of the tax man.”
A government appointee who pleaded not to be named said, “The AG on that claim may honestly not be wrong. Even if they started giving ministries imprest, it is very recent and it is not what it used to be. All the commissioners and SAs have been spending their personal monies to run their respective offices because there is no imprest. So he may not be far from the truth on that.”
Recently, a Calabar based human rights lawyer, James Ibor had lamented on his Facebook page that, “Justice in the Cross River State Ministry of Justice is for sale. I am still in shock that the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, will shamelessly return a ‘no case to answer’ opinion, to set free the police officers who murdered Stanley Etim. Remember, the police upon our complaint had indicted these officers and dismissed them. SHAME”
Reacting swiftly to Ibor’s submission, the AG hit back, “…when did private business of lawyers become a matter for Facebook and debate? You guys in Cross River State are very idle. This can never happen in Lagos. I run the MOJ (Ministry of Justice) from my pocket bc (because) the state is broke”. He threatens Ibor clearly by insisting that, “a word from you again (I) will show you who l am, Ok.”