Cross River Judiciary Crisis: State Attorney General moves against former Acting CJ, Justice Ikpeme
BY: Our Admin
A new twist has surfaced in the crisis plaguing the Judiciary in Cross River State with the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Tanko Ashang Esq writing at the instance of the Governor, seeking explanations from the Chief Registrar if Justice Akon Ikpeme is not liable to be charged for official misconduct.
Justice Ikpeme is the most senior Judge and had been recommended to be the substantive Chief Judge of the State but following what many believed was executive manipulations, the State House of Assembly turned down the request to confirm her alleging that she was a security risk.
Many stakeholders including the National body and the State branch of the Nigeria Bar Association condemned the state legislature and further accused the State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade of meddlesome-ness having been reported to be favorably disposed to Justice Maurice Eneji, the next in rank of seniority to Justice Ikpeme.
The letter from the State Attorney General dated 7 May 2020 titled “Re: Complaint against Justice Akon Ikpeme's Misconduct” and addressed to the Chief Registrar Cross River State Judiciary,Edem Okokon Esq, did not mixed words over the involvement of the Governor.
It read, “I am directing this letter to you as the Head of Administration and Accounting Officer of the Cross River State Judiciary to convey to you the His Excellency’s displeasure on the activities of Hon. Justice Akon Ikpeme and to get your reaction on this matter.”
Adding, “It has come to His Excellency’s notice that after the expiration of the tenure of Hon. Justice Akon Ikpeme as the Acting Chief Judge of Cross River State, she has con tinued to occupy, sit and treat files in High Court 1 and in the Chief Judge’s chambers despite the fact that a new Acting Chief Judge has since resumed work”.
“The following questions need your urgent response: why Justice Akon Ikpeme is still occupying the office of the Chief Judge after the expiration of her tenure as the Acting Chief Judge; Why Justice Akon Ikpeme is still sitting in High Court No 1, a court traditionally and constitutionally reserved for the Chief Judge of the State; Why Justice Akon Ikpeme is still treating mails as at late April 2020 when clearly such letters are not addressed to her personally but addressed to the Chief Judge of Cross River state.”
“Your quick response to these issues will nip in the bud this ugly occurrence. It is the duty of every judicial officer to respect and comply with the laws of the land and conduct herself /himself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence and integrity of the Judiciary.”
“You are, by this letter, directed to ensure as the Administrative Head of the Court, forthwith, that all functionaries of the Judiciary adhere to due process, the Rule of Law and the Constitution of Nigeria”.
The State NBA, backed by all the Senior Advocates of Nigeria SANs from the state and some other senior Lawyers had petition the current Chief Judge of the State to the National Judicial Council and prayed thus: “My Lord is respectfully urged to follow the precedents already laid down by the National Judicial Council, by: ‘Insisting that the Governor of Cross River State and the Cross River State House of Assembly has no powers to refuse, reject, or turn-down the confirmation of Hon. Justice Akon Bassey Ikpeme as recommended by the National Judicial Council.”
“Reject whatsoever purported advice has been sent to the National Judicial Council by the illegally constituted Cross River State Judicial Service Commission for the appointment of the Chief Judge of Cross River State; and”
“Take appropriate disciplinary actions against Hon. Justice Maurice O. Eneji for making himself available to be used by the Governor of Cross River State to ridicule and undermine the integrity, dignity, sanctity, and independence of the Judiciary.” “We so pray my Lord most respectfully.”