Members of the Eniong Abatim Community in Odukpani Council Area of Cross River State have risen in defence of Justice Akon Ikpeme, insisting that the state government should follow due process, the rule of law and swear her in as substantive Chief Judge of the state.
Protesting against her continued non-confirmation, as recommended by the Nigeria Judiciary Commission (NJC), they argued that refusal to swear in Ikpeme as substantive Chief Judge, being the most senior judge in the state, was making mockery of the judiciary.
They lamented that in the past one year, three judges had passed through the state judiciary in acting capacity against the laid down principles in that arm of government.
Recalled that Justice Michael Edem retired in November last year and the House of Assembly screened Justice Ikpeme after which Governor Benedict Ayade swore her in as Acting Chief Judge.
Thereafter, the state government swore in her junior, Justice Maurice Eneji as Acting Chief Judge for three months and was further extended for another three months as the NJC declined to recommend him for the position, after which Justice Eyo Efiom Ita was named Acting Chief Judge.
But worried by the development, Chairman of the community, Dr. David Okon, told journalists that the development was capable of derailing democracy in the state as the rule of law was being abused.
Okon said it was unjustifiable for the state House of Assembly to decline confirming Ikpeme as substantive Chief Judge on grounds that she was from Akwa Ibom State and would constitute security risk in the judiciary.
“Justice Akon Ikpeme is our daughter and has been married to Okpo Eniong for almost 40 years without any problem. She has her home in Eniong Abatim and has been an active member of several Eniong Abatim Development Associations over the years without any sentiments.
“She has contributed immensely to the development of our community and Cross River State in general with a high sense of responsibility, honesty and diligence,” Okon said.
The Eniong Abatim Community, therefore, urged Governor Ayade to swear in Justice Ikpeme as substantive Chief Judge without further delay adding: “We do not care about the number of acting chief judges that may have been or that would be appointed, as it is now turning out to be the norm in Cross River State.”
In this article: