Ayade promises salary increase for judges

Bassey Inyang in Calabar

Cross River State Governor Prof Ben Ayade has pledged that his administration will increase the salaries of judges and other judicial officers in the state by March this year.

Ayade made the pledge yesterday when he was sworn in before the President of the State Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Walter Eneji, four new High Court judges and four new Customary Court judges.

Speaking at the event, Ayade denounced the poor salary structure of judges in the country, promising that despite the meager financial resources, Cross River will be the torchbearer to raise the standard of living of judges by revising their salaries.

The governor said he would meet with the state House of Assembly to ensure the new salary structure for judges takes effect March 1.

“It is a very clear statement that will instruct the entire federation to look into the issue of judges’ salaries. As of March 1, the salary of our bailiffs in Cross River State will be permanently changed. We will increase your salaries so that other states know that Cross River, which is number 35 out of 36 states in terms of federal allowance, can increase judges’ salaries. If Cross River State can raise judges’ salaries, which state won’t? It’s a way of coercing them into raising judges’ salaries because it’s sad that you put a man in such a sensitive position and expose him to temptation by leaving him on the same salary scale for 13 years,” he said.

According to the Governor, “Cross River State will enact the appropriate legislation in partnership with the Legislature so that by March we will have a new salary structure for our judges.”

The governor accused Judge Eneji and the new judges “of being shining examples of Cross River”.

Urging them further, Ayade said, “Be a shining star, be that agent of change who will bring fairness, justice, kindness, kindness and sincerity to the entire justice system.

“As you hold your Bible today taking an oath, do not forget the meaning of this Bible, let your God be your watchword, indeed let the fear of God be your guide for your children and grandchildren children will reap from what you do.

“Let it not happen that when you judge on earth and when you go to heaven to be judged, you will be sent to hell.”

He reminded the judges that the common man and the elite depend solely on the judiciary for justice as the last bastion of hope and therefore must not compromise justice.

In his remarks, Justice Eneji, who served as the state’s acting chief justice, described Ayade as the most pro-judicial governor.

He recalled that the governor took office in the heat of turmoil in the Cross River justice system over the backlog of unpaid claims, but managed to calm the frayed nerves.

“Let me say this officially, Your Excellency, you are the most pro-judicial governor. This is the third time you have sworn in judges. And also, before you took office, the judiciary owed an arrears of allowances for about two years, unfortunately, you came on board when the judicial staff were angry and decided to strike but in your human nature, you gave your word and said from this day, this is what I can do, Your Excellency, you have kept your words till this day,” Judge Eneji emphasized.

The new president of the Customary Court of Appeals of Cross River commended the governor for facilitating the take-off of the Court in the state, adding, “What people don’t know is that without the Court of ‘customary appeal, we change ourselves because the money is already voted, but because we have not used it, the money is used elsewhere for those who have a customary court of appeal.

He appealed to Ayade for a larger and more appropriate judicial seat in the state because, in his view, the existing one is too small for the Cross River judiciary.

Apart from Justice Maurice Eneji, the sworn judges in the High Court are Justice Obo Agbor Anthony, Justice Ititim Felix Igobi, Justice Dada Eunice Oshim and Justice Ankpor Jeremiah Arong.

The sworn judges in the customary court are Judge Daniel Ofre Kulo, Judge Rita Otu Marshall, Judge Odibu Emmanuel Ekanya and Judge Obin Blessing Egwu.

William M. Mayer