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Cross River magistrates groan under N60m debt

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Groaning under the huge debt of over N60m, newly employed magistrates in Cross River State have taken their destiny into their hands by publicly expressing their grievances.

The magistrates, numbering over 30, have been in the state government’s employment for over two years without salary; yet they go to work daily and do not even know how much their salary is, just as the state government said the governor did not order their employment.

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Disturbed by the situation, the magistrates, led by Solomon Abuo of Court 15, protested in front of the Governor’s Office from January 4 to 6, demanding payment of their salaries, as they could no longer cope with the embarrassing situation.

It was gathered that the magistrates owe banks and individuals between N2m and N3m each for two years now. The sum is said to have been used for payment of school fees and feeding. “We cannot meet up. We owe school fees, cannot afford medical bills and some of our family members have died, as a result of the hardship. On the average, putting everything together, we are owing banks, individuals, and organisations over N60m,” they said.

In a telephone chat, the leader of the protesting magistrates, Mr. Abuo said: “We borrow and beg to survive. Most of us cannot feed or pay our children’s school fees. The situation is very bad, and all we want is for the government to pay our 24 months of salary.

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“I got bank loans and borrowed from people. We have been embarrassed several times. I got a loan to pay for rent, now my rent is due again. I am indebted to Sterling Bank, from where I borrowed money in December 2019 to pay rent. I owe banks and people over N3m.”

When asked how much the state owed them he said, “I cannot ascertain our actual salary for now because we have not been paid, but I know it runs into millions.”

On the second day of the protest, which was a Tuesday, one of the magistrates, Richard Bassey collapsed but was later resuscitated by his colleagues and some medical personnel that came around.

The striking magistrates met with the Attorney General of the State and Commissioner for Justice on Wednesday, but there was no fruitful result.

A statement by the leader of the magistrates said: “… We have decided to suspend our protest for the payment of our 24 monthly salaries until January salaries are paid to enable our state government to fashion out modalities and do everything necessary on their part to ensure that our salaries are paid, else, we shall resume our protest in earnest.”

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