Magistrates Sue Governor Ben Ayade, Seek 500M Naira Damages, Amongst Others

In Breaking News, Politics, Reports

By CrossRiverWatch Admin

Some Magistrates of the Cross River State Judiciary currently serving in various Magisterial districts across the State have sued Governor Ben Ayade alleging non-payment of salaries and wrongful removal of their names from Government payroll.

The Court papers exclusively obtained by CrossRiverWatch show that the case is before the National Industrial Court of Nigeria sitting in Calabar with suit No. NICN/CA/46/2019. The claimants represented by learned Essien H. Andrew (SAN) include; Eton Effiong Essien, Eno Iyamba, Abigail Bassey Asuquo, Ekok Asuo Okpokam, Glory Effiom Ironbar and Gabriel Awah Ebebe.

The suit which was filed on 5/12/2019 named the State Governor, Ben Ayade as 1st Defendant and the Government of Cross River State as 2nd Defendant while the Attorney General of Cross River State is named as 3rd Defendant. Others are the Cross River State Civil Service Commission and the Cross River State Judicial Service Commission named as 4th and 5th Defendants respectively.

According to the Court documents the case of the claimants is that they were employed by the 2nd defendant as Law Officers (State Counsel) in the Cross River State Ministry of Justice, with effect from December, 2016, and that after their employment the claimants were working initially under the direct supervision of the 3rd defendant in the Cross River State Ministry of Justice.

They further stated that due to their conscientious and diligent service to the defendants, their employments were duly confirmed by the 4th defendant after two years of meritorious service and issued Letters of Confirmation of Appointment.

The claimants also stated that they subsequently transferred their services to the Judiciary following their elevation/appointment as Magistrates in the Cross River State Judiciary with effect from 3rd April, 2018 for the 1st claimant and 3rd February, 2019 for the 2nd to 6th claimants, and they were also issued with Letters of Transfer of Service.

That from January to August, 2019 the defendants made a monthly deduction of N5,666.70 for “HOS Computer” from each of the claimants’ salaries. And that the deductions were made without the claimants’ authority or consent and no computer has been given to any of the claimants for the deductions so made from their salaries. But between January to August 2019 the total sum of N45,333.60 were deducted by the defendants from the salary of each claimant for the “HOS Computer”.

The claimants are further alleging that in September, 2019 there was a whimsical and unwarranted removal of their names from Government payroll, and as a result, the claimants instructed their solicitors to write a pre-action notice to the defendants demanding restoration of their names on the payroll.

That upon receipt of that pre-action notice, the Defendants issued a Public Service Announcement calling on the representatives of all civil/public servants affected by the removal of names from Government payroll to meet with the 1st Defendant for a dialogue.

That the meeting with the 1st Defendant was held on 20th November 2019 at the State Executive Council Chambers with the 1st and 2nd Claimants in attendance. That the meeting turned out to be a briefing wherein the 1st Defendant verbally informed all those whose names were removed from Government payroll (including the Claimants), that their employment were illegal and invalid as it was done without any written approval or authorization from the 1st Defendant.

The Claimants also stated that in spite of the 1st defendant’s verbal comment none of the claimants have been served with any notice in writing terminating their employments. Consequently, the claimants are still discharging their professional services as Magistrates at the various Magistrate Courts to which they have been posted. They are still working even though their salaries have not been paid since September 2019.

The claimants are therefore asking the Court for:

A declaration that the claimants are bona fide employees of the defendants, and their employments which are governed by statute and the civil service rules are still subsisting.

A declaration that the claimants, as lawful employees of the defendants, are entitled to all their earned and accrued salaries.

A declaration that the 1st defendant’s decision to remove the claimants’ names, from the 2nd defendant’s payroll is unjustifiable, unlawful, null and void.

An order directing the defendants to restore and reinstate all the claimants forthwith on the payroll of the Cross River State Government.

A declaration that the unauthorized monthly deductions made from the claimants’ salaries from January to August, 2019 for “HOS Computer” is unlawful, illegal and unjustifiable.

An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants either by themselves, their servants, agents or privies from making any further deductions for “HOS Computer” from the claimants’ earned salaries.

An order directing the defendants to pay the 1st claimant the sum of One Million, Nine Hundred and Ninety Thousand, Four Hundred and Eighty-Seven Naira, Ninety-Three kobo (N1,990,487. 93) only as special damages.

An order directing the defendants to pay the 2nd to 6th Claimants the sum of One Million, Five Hundred and Forty-Two Thousand, Six Hundred and Ninety-Five Naira, Thirteen kobo (N1,542,695 .13) each as special damages.

An order directing the defendants to pay to the claimants jointly the sum of N500, 000, 000.00 (Five Hundred Million Naira) only as general damages for the excruciating difficulties, psychological trauma and emotional anxiety caused to the claimants by the defendants.

And 20% post judgment interest to be calculated on the total judgment debt from the date of judgment and until the judgment debt is paid in full.

Our correspondent further gathered that although the defendants have all been duly served since 6th December, 2019, they are yet to appear nor file a defence to the suit. Meanwhile, the case has been fixed for January 31, 2020 for hearing.

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