The Governor of Cross River State, Professor Ben Ayade, Tuesday swore-in Justice Maurice Eneji as the new President of the state’s Customary Court of Appeal.
Also sworn-in were four new High Court Judges and four Customary Court judges.
The new four High Court judges are Justice Obo Agbor Anthony, Justice Ititim Felix Igobi, Justice Dada Eunice Oshim and Justice Ankpor Jeremiah Arong.
The Customary Court judges were Justice Daniel Ofre Kulo, Justice Rita Otu Marshall, Justice Odibu Emmanuel Ekanya and Justice Obin Blessing Egwu.
At the event held at the State Executive Council Chamber, Ayade decried the poor salary structure of judges in the country, vowing that despite the lean financial resources, Cross River will be the torchbearer in upping the standard of living of judges by reviewing their salaries.
The governor said he would meet with the state House of Assembly to ensure the new salary structure for judges takes effect by the first of March.
According him, “this is a very clear statement that will charge the whole federation to look into the issue of the salary of judges.
“From the 1st of March, the salary of our judicial officers in Cross River State will be changed for good.
“We will increase your salaries so that other states can know that Cross River, which is number 35 out of 36 states in terms of federal allocation can increase the salary of judges.
“If Cross River State can increase the salary of judges which state will not increase? It is a way to compel them to increase the salary of judges because it is 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.”
According to the governor, “Cross River State will enact the appropriate law in partnership with the legislature so that by March, we will have a new salary structure for our judges.”
He charged Justice Eneji and the new judges “to be shining examples of Cross River.”
Further admonishing them, Ayade said: “Be a shining star, be that agent of change that will bring fairness ,justice, goodness, kindness and sincerity to the judiciary as a whole.
“As you hold your Bible today while taking the oath, do not forget the significance of that Bible, let your God be your watchword, let indeed, the fear of God be your guide because your children and grandchildren will reap from what you do.
“Let it not be that when you judge on earth and by the time you go to heaven to be judged you will be sent to hell.”
He reminded the judges that both the common man and the elite solely depend on the judiciary for justice as the last bastion of hope and must not, therefore, compromise justice.
In his remarks, Justice Eneji who was a one-time acting Chief Judge of the state, described Ayade as the most judiciary-friendly Governor.
He recalled that the governor assumed office in the heat of restiveness in the Cross River judiciary due to backlog of unpaid allowances but was able to calm frayed nerves.
“Let me say this on record, Your Excellency, you are the most judiciary-friendly governor. This is the third time you are swearing-in judges into office. And also, before you came to office, the judiciary was owed a backlog of allowances for about two years, unfortunately, you came on board when the judiciary staff were angry and decided to go on strike but in your humane nature, you gave us your word and said from this day on, this is what I can do, Your Excellency, you kept your words till date,” Justice Eneji stressed.
The new President of Cross River Customary Court of Appeal commended the governor for facilitating the take off of the Court in the state, adding, “what people do not know is that without the Customary Court of Appeal, we are short-changing ourselves because the money is already voted for, but because we didn’t utilise it, the money is used elsewhere for those who have Customary Court of Appeal.”
He appealed to Ayade for a more expansive and befitting judiciary headquarters in the state as according to him, the existing one is too small for Cross River judiciary.