“NJC should help C’River Judiciary before it degenerates” –Ukweni SAN
…Justice Ikpeme, compelled out of office space
BY: Our Admin.
The National Judicial Council (NJC) has been urged to expedite action over the crisis which has left Cross River State with no substantive Chief Judge in nearly six months. Mba Ukweni, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), made the call on Wednesday shortly after the most senior Judge, Justice Akon Ikpeme, was practically compelled to vacate the office of the Chief Judge of the State which is reserved for the most senior Judge.
Ikpeme had acted as the Chief Judge of the State for three months following the retirement of the last substantive Chief Judge in November last year. She was recommended by the NJC for substantive appointment but the State Legislature refused her the appointment siting her as a security risk to the state. Yesterday, she was served with a letter from the state Executive arm requiring her to vacate the office and Court space of the Chief Judge of the State.
Many stakeholders including Ukweni SAN had condemned the state legislature and also noted the “obvious interference and interest of the State Governor in the choice of the next Chief Judge”.
Speaking exclusively with a reporter, Ukweni SAN noted that “this is the time for the NJC to act over the crisis in Cross River State Judiciary. The tenure of the current acting Chief Judge, Maurice Eneji who was brought in by the Governor after the drama of rejecting Akon Ikpeme in the legislature, ends on the June 3rd, 2020. The NJC needs to take the necessary and lawful decision on the situation in Cross River State Judiciary before it further degenerates.”
“Imagine the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice writing to the Registry of the State High Court over issues with the most Senior Judge in the state.
"Let it be emphasized for the avoidance of doubt that no Judge of the State High court is under the supervision of the State Attorney General. He lacks the locus to query the performance of the judicial functions of any Judge. That is the exclusive constitutional duty of the NJC which is not even shared with the State Governor nor the President.”
He described the letter from the state Attorney General to the Chief Registrar as an abuse of office and a complete misnomer which should be nipped in the bud by the expeditious action of the NJC on the crisis in the State.
On the situation which has compelled the most Senior Judge, Akon Ikpeme to vacate the office space for the most senior Judge, being the office of the State Chief Judge, Ukweni SAN noted that ‘if Ikpeme has decided to leave the office space because they want it at all cost, she is in order to avoid any physical challenge and public display. That is another reason the NJC should act fast on this matter.
Besides, Justice Eneji who is now acting as Chief Judge at the instance of the state Governor is the second most senior Judge; when he took over, one of the things he did was to re-number the courts.
He re-number Court One as Two, Court two as three, and so on. But in Court six, he renumbered it to Court one and moved in to occupy the office while he moved the former court, six Judge, to other premises outside the headquarters”.
Ukweni SAN further noted that all the state executive was trying to do by the recent letter was looking for a way to indict Justice Ikpeme.
“They have played all their cards to no avail. We are confident that justice will take its course but the NJC need not delay any further. We need an expedited action from the NJC”.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria warned the State Attorney General, Tanko Ashang Esq not to lose sight of the fact that his tenure as the State Attorney General will expire and he will return to the Bar, “that being so, whatever he is doing now, will hunt or speak for him”.