Members of the Law Officers Association of Nigeria (LOAN), on Monday in Calabar, Cross River State capital staged a protest complaining about the delay in harmonization of their salaries with magistrates in the State.
The protesting lawyers, who were received by the Acting Governor of the State, Prof Ivara Esu, vowed to continue the protest until government bowed to their demand.
Led by the state chairman of the chapter, Eneji Amajama, the lawyers shutdown activities at the state Ministry of Justice before marching to the governor’s office in Calabar.
Some of the inscriptions on their placards read: “Pay arrears of salaries of law officers employed in 2016,” “Ayade not the problem, Joe Abang, a stumbling block to harmonization,” and “We are learned gentlemen/women, not illiterates.”
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Amajama accused the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Joe Abang of frustrating every effort aimed at resolving the crisis, maintaining that no lawyer will resume at the Ministry until the matter was settled in their favour.
He said: “We embarked on this strike action to agitate for our welfare. It is not just an empty agitation: it is the official policy of this government that there is parity between Law officers and the Magistracy.
“The governor came to the ministry of justice sometime in May to commission our Library and agreed that the harmonization should be implemented and also made provision that more law officers should be recruited.
“Since then, more law officers have been recruited but the implementation of the harmonization policy has not been done.”
While recalling that the association had embarked on the same action in November 2016, he said, “they pleaded with us to suspend the action so that it can be captured in the budget of 2017.”
He added that throughout that year, nothing happened even though it was captured in the budget.
The Lawyers alleged that: “When we wrote to the Attorney General, Joe Abang to remind him, he treated us with total disdain. He never allowed the governor to see our document and we were patient. We wanted to have a courtesy visit to the governor, but Abang threw away the letter.”
He added: ‘When we gave them 21 days notice to embark on this protest, they treated it with disdain. And we gave them another seven days notice, they never did anything. That is why we said let us move to the governor.
“Maybe they are not telling him the truth that there is a policy on ground, it was in the budget of 2017 and it is in the budget of 2018 and up till this moment nobody is implementing it.”
However, in a statement, Abang claimed that the issue was being handled at the highest level of government, warning that government will not hesitate to “implement the no work, no pay policy.”
Part of the statement read: “It has come to my Notice that a certain group of people under the agies of Law Officers Association of Nigeria ( LOAN) are planning on shutting down the ministry of justice on Monday the 2nd of July 2018. They claim that the Government of CRS has approved but not implemented the harmonization of their salaries with that of Judicial Officers in the Magistrate cadre.
“This issue is in the 2018 Budget and presently being handled by the HOS Barr Ekpenyong Henshaw and the Accountant General of CRS. The SA Labour to the Governor has said this group is not part of NLC and TUC and therefore cannot declare a strike against a Governor who has performed creditably well! We therefore urge the general public and the service to ignore any body claiming to or purporting to be in support of this group.
“Our Digital Governor remains open to negotiations in this respect. But the Attorney General and commissioner for justice CRS will not hesitate to implement the ‘No work No pay policy’ of the Federal government should the need arise. This Notice is approved by the AG/CFJ.”
Meanwhile, the Acting Governor, Prof. Ivara Esu has appealed to the lawyers to return to work, promising to do everything to resolve the issue after studying documents relating to the matter.