Members of the Cross River State Customary Court have decried nonpayment of 3 years salary which has brought them untold hardship.
Customary or District Courts are grassroots courts and Cross River State has 96 across the three Senatorial districts. Each District Court is made up of a President and two members.
Despite not being paid since their appointment in February 2019, the 288 members have been judiciously discharging their duties, a situation the President of one of the District Courts who spoke on condition of anonymity described as “shameful and painful, we are dying slowly, we have not been paid a dime for three years.”
Another member who also spoke on condition of anonymity revealed that they had sought an audience with their employer, Cross River State Judicial Service Commission in an attempt to understand what the problem is but to no avail.
“We had long written to our employer and to our greatest surprise we were ignored, no explanation, no communication as to why we are being owed. We have lost a colleague to the cold hands of death, and now our tenure ended January 2022″, the member said.
In an interview with another member of a District Court in the Southern Senatorial District who also spoke anonymously revealed that their salary “is meager, the peanut they are supposed to pay us which cannot do anything has exposed us to all forms of torture. Presidents are supposed to be paid N41,000 while members N31,000 only.”
Austin Obongha, Secretary, Cross River State Judicial Service Commission told our reporter on the phone that they have written to the state governor and are awaiting his response.
He was called after the Commission did not reply to a Freedom of Information request made by our reporter over 2 weeks ago.
“That matter is before His Excellency, we have done what we are supposed to do as an office and forwarded it to His Excellency for approval, we are still waiting. We did that over a month or two before your letter came”, the Cross River State Judicial Service Commission Secretary said.
Furthermore, he said, “When your letter came, my Chairman said we should wait for His Excellency’s reaction, not for us to do any other thing while the matter is before His Excellency, we will attend to it.”
When asked what the challenge was, he said he is not competent to speak on that.
Not responding to a Freedom of Information request is a violation of Section 4 of the Act which states that a response should be available within 7 days after the application is received.
Section 4 of the act states that, “where information is applied for under this Act, the public institution to which the application is made shall, subject to sections 6, 7, and 8 of this Act, within 7 days after the application is received –
“(a) make the information available to the applicant. (b) where the institution considers that the application should be denied, the institution shall give written notice to the applicant that access to all or part of the information will not be granted, stating reasons for the denial, and the section of this Act under which the denial is made.”