The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has condemned the swearing in by Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State of Justice Maurice Eneji as the acting Chief Judge of the state on Tuesday.
The NBA accuses Gov. Ayade of politicizing appointments in the state judiciary by refusing to confirm Justice Akon Ikpeme as the substantive Chief Judge of the state until his tenure expired on Monday.
NBA President, Paul Usoro, SAN, in a statement, Tuesday, said “This absurdity and naked injustice and prejudice must not be allowed to stand. The NBA is unequivocally opposed to the appointment of Justice Maurice Eneji as the Acting Chief Judge of the State and even more opposed to the unsavory political intrigues within the Executive and Legislative arms of the Cross River State that has so far resulted in the unconstitutional failure of both arms to confirm and swear in Justice Akon Ikpeme as the substantive Chief Judge of the State.
“Justice Akon Ikpeme is the most senior Judge of the CRS Judiciary and next to His Lordship is Justice Maurice Eneji. The names of their Lordships were both recommended to the National Judicial Council, NJC, for appointment as the Chief Judge of the state, with Justice Ikpeme as the preferred candidate and Justice Eneji as the reserve candidate based, amongst others, on seniority.
“According to the CRS HoA, Ikpeme is a security risk because she is, by birth, from the neighboring Akwa Ibom State even though her husband and children are, by birth from Cross River State. Ikpeme was born, bred, schooled and has worked, all her life in Cross River State and rightly claims Cross River State as her state of origin. Governor Ayade, this morning, gave fillip to the absurdity and farce of the CRS HoA by substituting Eneji as the acting Chief Judge of the state.
“But even assuming that she is, or the records were to show her to be of Akwa Ibom State origin (which is not the position), did the CRS Governor and his Assemblymen not swear to uphold the Nigerian Constitution, the provisions of which inter alia forbid discrimination on grounds of ethnic background? Are they, the Governor and the House of Assemblymen, upholding the sacred provisions of that Constitution by so brazenly discriminating against Ikpeme in the appointment of the CRS Chief Judge?
“From whichever angle one looks at the on-going macabre dance in Cross River State, it is distasteful and must be denounced by all lovers of Nigeria’s Judiciary and its independence.
He said cherished tradition of appointing the most senior Judges, where they have no reported blemish howsoever, to fill vacancies as Heads of Courts in the States and Federal Judiciaries promotes harmony within the judiciary and extirpates political corruption.
“That tradition must be protected in our overall interest and for the preservation of the Rule of Law and the precepts of justice,” he added.
The NBA also calls on both the Executive and Legislative arms of the CRS Government to urgently retrace their steps and confirm Ikpeme J for appointment as the substantive Chief Judge of Cross River State.