Justice Akon Ikpeme has been confirmed as the substantive Chief Judge of Cross River State.
After 13 months without a substantive Chief Judge, the legislative arm made a volta face when they convened an emergency sitting on Thursday and confirmed Justice Akon Ikpeme as substantive Chief Judge following a letter with reference no SSG/S/300/VOL.XVIX/550 and dated January 20 transmitted to them from Governor Ayade.
In the letter signed by the Secretary to State Government (SSG), Tina Banku Agbor, the Governor sought for the confirmation of Justice Akon Ikpeme as substantive Chief Judge in line with the power conferred on him by Section 271(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The House presided over by the Speaker, Rt. Hon Eteng William, in a unanimous yes-vote, confirmed Ikpeme after the motion moved by the Leader, Hon Peter Odey (Ogoja) and seconded by Whip, Hon Okon Ephraim (Calabar South 1).
The Ikpeme saga began with Governor Ben Ayade’s
inauguration of the disputed Cross River State Judicial Service Commission in October 2019.
The Commission had on November 27 gone ahead to forward the names of Justice Ikpeme as the “President of the Customary Court of Appeal” and Justice Maurice Eneji (her immediate junior) as “Acting Chief Judge,” a move the National Judicial Council (NJC) rebuffed.
Section 271(1) states: “The appointment of a person to the office of a chief judge of a state shall be made by the Governor of the state on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to the confirmation by the House of Assembly of the state.”………….
Subsection 4: “If the office of the chief judge of a state is vacant or if the person holding the office is for any reason unable to perform the functions of the office, then, until a person has been appointed to and has assumed the functions of that office, or until the person holding the office has resumed those functions, the Governor of the State shall appoint the most Senior Judge of the High Court to perform those functions.”
Justice Ikpeme was sworn in on December 3 2019, as Acting Chief Judge for three months and although Governor Ayade sent her name to the CRSHA for confirmation as prescribed by law, he was believed to have engineered the refusal by the lawmakers.
CRSHA’s refusal in Ikpeme’s confirmation were hinged on the reason that she is originally from Akwa Ibom State by birth, and would “pose a security risk to Cross River State” should there be a conflict between both states. This led to a shutdown of all Courts in the State.
With the NJC adamant on Justice Ikpeme as substantive Chief Judge, the situation forced Governor Ayade to swear in Justice Eyo Effiom Ita-as acting CJ on October 19, 2020 with the NJC rejecting an extension.
Cross River State has been without a Chief Judge or Acting Chief Judge since January 19, 2021.
Akon Ikpeme joined the State Judiciary in 1982 and is married to Bassey Ikpeme from Odukpani LGA of Cross River State
Contents created by Taiwo Hammed.
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