Reports available to CrossRiverWatch have revealed that the Governor of Cross River State, Senator Ben Ayade has indefinitely suspended the pay rolling/ payment of salaries to 40 newly employed law officers at the Ministry of Justice, Calabar thereby subjecting the affected lawyers to miserable hardship.
This was contained in a letter dated 24th March, 2017 with reference number SSG/GSA/S/26/V.XII/543 and titled “Withholding of the Payment of Newly Employed Lawyers” emanating from the Governor through the Secretary to the State Government and addressed to the Attorney-General/Commissioner for Justice, Cross River State.
The letter however run contrary to an earlier letter dated 25th November, 2016 and entitled “Approval for the Documentation and Pay Rolling of Newly Appointed Law Officers into the Ministry of Justice”, wherein the Governor through his Deputy, approved the pay rolling and payment of the new law officers on 1st December, 2016.
It will be recalled that sometime in June, 2016 CrossRiverWatch reported on how over 150 lawyers sought employment as law officers in the Ministry of Justice, Cross River State.
This followed an earlier approval for the employment of new law officers to boost the capacity and workforce of the Ministry of Justice, by Governor Ben Ayade on 26th May, 2016 during the commissioning of the ultra modern library complex at the Ministry of Justice, Calabar.
Our findings reveal that only 40 lawyers scaled through the rigorous employment exercise and were issued their appointment letters with effect from December, 2016, after successfully undergoing written aptitude test and oral interview.
Findings by CrossRiverWatch also reveal that some of the new law officers were in active private legal practice with a growing clientele base but had to relinquish private practice after their employment with the state, in compliance with professional ethics as well as in a bid to put in their all and adequately represent government’s interest in courts.
In a telephone conversation with some of the new law officers who spoke on condition of anonymity, they lamented their daily hardship and mockery even as they appealed to Governor Ben Ayade to revisit the issue of their payment in line with his avowed labor-friendly disposition.
“It was with great excitement and fulfillment that I took up this employment. I was particularly happy that Governor Ayade was kind enough to engage us and boost the much needed workforce in the Ministry of Justice. However, it is most regrettable that the Governor who is reputed to be labor-friendly, would turn round to be denying us our earned wages.
“Our employment process was rigorous and transparent. We did written aptitude test as well as oral interview. We were eventually issued appointment letters with effect from December, 2016. Since then we have been working passionately even without pay for six (6) months now and still counting. This is most unfair to us and grossly inhuman.”
Lamenting further, another of the new law officers stated thus: “Thank you for calling me on this issue this morning. As I speak to you now, am trekking on my way to work. Yes, it’s gotten to that! Most of us now find it difficult to meet up with basic necessities of life. We have young families and siblings to cater for. We have accommodation and utility bills to pay. For God’s sake, how does one expect us to fare? We are gradually getting disillusioned and tired of work. My appeal to Governor Ayade is that he should hearken to our cry. He should factor us in his scheme of things; we are part of his workforce. We deserve to be paid our earned wages. We deserve to be treated fairly. That is all.”
Another State Counsel narrated thus: “I am in Calabar and things are quite tough for me. I feel for my other colleagues posted to Akamkpa, Ikom and Ogoja Zonal Offices. I understand that due to the need to settle down and get at work, some of them went as far as collecting loans to get accommodation. I don’t really blame them; indeed we had thought that after the customary three months period, we would all be paid. But what we heard next was that the Governor is not disposed to pay us. Then why did he employ us?”
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