Gov Ben Ayade sacks 40 Lawyers in Justice Ministry, alleges irregular employment

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31 October 2019 

The affected law officers were employed in December 2016, about three years ago, after a rigorous employment process which was reported in various newspapers and outlets nationwide.

It became clear that all was not well in the state when sometime in August 2019 the Governor ordered a screening of all the civil servants in Cross River State, purportedly to fish out ghost workers.
However, in September, 2019, salaries were paid to civil servants but 40 Law Officers working at the Ministry of Justice were not paid. None of them was served with any letter of termination and were still working actively pondering why their salaries were not paid.
It only became clear upon an enquiry by the affected law officers that the Governor acting through the accountant general, unilaterally ordered the removal of their names from the payroll without recourse to any of the affected staff. October salaries have now been paid and the affected Law Officers, who are still being owed six months salary from December 2016 to May 2017, are yet to receive their wages.
On 26th September 2019, a letter was written to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Calabar from the Senior Special Adviser, Payroll requesting for the re-validation of all approvals for employment from 2015 to date. An original copy of the approval granted by Ivara Esu, Deputy Governor, then in his capacity as Acting Governor, Cross River State, was forwarded to the office of the SSA Payroll and to His Excellency the Governor of Cross River State. Despite this, the affected Law Officers whose employment has since been confirmed by the Government of Cross River State are still yet to be paid.
Some of the law officers who spoke to BarristerNG on the condition of anonimity has these to say;
“We noticed for the first time that while other workers were paid September salaries, we didn’t get any payment. This prompted a few of us to march to the accountant general’s office for enquiries. We were told that His Excellency ordered the removal of our names from the payroll and that our employment is to undergo a revalidation. We were encouraged to be patient, that the exercise would last for about 30 days and by the end of October, we would be paid double salaries for September and October.”
“It is still a wonder that we have not been paid till now even when other workers have got their October salaries. The letter we wrote to the Accountant General seeking an explanation on why our salaries are yet to be paid has not been responded to till date.”
“It may interest you to know that our employment went through the most rigorous and transparent process. Vacancies were advertised, we applied in writing and later wrote an aptitude test in which over 100 applicant lawyers participated. An oral interview was subsequently conducted. At the end of it all, 40 of us successfully made the final list. The whole employment process lasted for about 6 months (from June, 2016 to early December, 2016) and was conducted/supervised by the State Civil Service Commission (the body statutorily empowered to employ civil servants) as well as the Attorney General.”
“We were issued with employment letters and later trained by the Ministry of Establishment & Training. Our employment has since been confirmed after two years of meritorious service with letters issued to that effect, as required by the Public Service Rules.”
“Where lies the irregularity in the employment as alleged and why after about 3 years of effective and meritorious service?”
“Our employment was with effect from December, 2016. Since then a lot has happened. We have diligently prosecuted and defended government cases in all courts of the land, including the appellate courts. My appeal is that the digital and supersonic governor Ben Ayade should allow humanity and good conscience to guide his thoughts and actions. He should immediately restore our names on the payroll and order the immediate payment of our earned salaries. If not for anything, let him do that at least for the sake of our suffering family members and dependents. Our salaries from December 2016 to May 2017 are still being owed."