But for the intervention of concerned Nigerians who rescued him, a magistrate in Cross River, Richard Bassey who slumped in front of the governor’s office in Calabar during a protest over the non-payment of two years salaries, would have passed on Tuesday.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Bassey was among 30 magistrates who participated in the protest, which caused outrage among angry residents of the State.
The demonstration began on Monday when Safiya Ashipu, a Chief magistrate in the state, marched to the governor’s office over the non-payment of salaries.
Her lone protest later prompted some of her colleagues, including Solomon Abua, a chief magistrate, to join in the demonstration, and they appealed to Ben Ayade, the state governor, to pay the salaries owed them.
But during the protest on Tuesday, Bassey collapsed, but was revived when his colleagues poured water on him — he was later taken to a nearby hospital, according to reports.
Abua, speaking with newsmen after the incident, was said to have described the non-payment of salaries as “embarrassing”, adding that the protest was their last resort.
“We will continue to protest until we are paid,” he said.
“This is very embarrassing. In 2020, one of the magistrates was arraigned before a fellow magistrate over his inability to pay rent. Most of us can’t pay our house rents and are squatting with colleagues.
“Is it wrong for one to serve the state as a judicial officers? Are we supposed to go through this kind of humiliation?”
NAN investigation revealed that no official from the governor’s office addressed the protesters, Eyo Effiom-Ita, acting Chief judge of the State during the peaceful protest.
The judge admitted that he was aware that the magistrates had not been paid for a long time.
Effiom-Ita also explained that different presentations had been made to the governor.
According to him, “The governor said he did not give clearance for their appointment, so, he will not pay them. Until the governor changes his disposition, there is nothing anyone can do”.