Women groups under the umbrella of Iban Isong Efik Association (MIIE) have condemned what they described as “illegal disqualification” of Justice Akon Ikpeme as the Chief Judge of Cross River by the state House of Assembly.
They made their position known in a press statement signed by the president of the association, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa and read yesterday to newsmen at a press conference in Calabar.
The former Acting Chief Judge Ikpeme was on Tuesday disqualified by the lawmakers on the ground that she is an Akwa Ibomite by origin and constitutes security risk to the state prior to her confirmation as CJ.
The groups lamented: “As women from different parts of Nigeria but bound together by our love for Calabar and many years of co-existence, the Mbono Iban, for all intents and purposes, see and know that Akon Ikpeme is a woman of Odukpani LGA origin in Cross River State. We reject all spurious attempts to dissociate her from her husband of over 30 years and her four children who are fully part and parcel of the Efik ethnic extraction. In her own right, Akon Ikpeme is fully Efik as she was born in Calabar and had her early livelihood experiences here in the state. During the last 35 years or more, she has habitually resided and worked in the public service, and paid her tax here in Cross River State, where she has not been found wanting.”
They continued: “We are therefore unable to understand what the logic behind her disqualification or rejection is about. Although she was denied confirmation by a voice vote, the reasons had nothing to do with her competence and service to Cross River State. No specific instances of her being a security risk was established and therefore, the resort to her state of origin was vile and hateful.”
Stating that the act, which was a “premeditated “arrangement to marginalise her since 2019 when question of succession was announced, the women expressed surprise that the “plot was followed through”
The agitators wondered why Ikpeme, who was born and married to an Efik man, would be treated as a displaced refugee.
“Our challenge is that women are continuously displaced just because they are that gender. In their fatherland, they have no place because they are married out and in their husband’s land, they are strangers or refugees. Mbono Iban Isong Efik totally refuses to believe that women are now seen as internally displaced persons or refugees, and therefore calls for a total overhaul of this situation,” the groups said.
They however called on the House of Assembly to reverse itself since Justice Maurice Eneji was sworn-in in an acting capacity.
“We particularly wish to draw attention to the fact that what happened yesterday at the House of Assembly in Cross River State was an infringement of the fundamental rights of Justice Akon Ikpeme and a matter of grave constitutional implication. All women are affected, because discrimination to one woman is discrimination to all.
“We note that the governor has sworn in a man in place of Justice Akon Ikpeme and would like to add that since this is in an acting capacity, there is room for the Cross River State House of Assembly to reverse itself on this matter. The right thing should be done in the light of the provisions of Section 42(1) a and b of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended),” they demanded.
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