Friday, 29 November 2019

SAN carpets Gov Ayade over appointment of State Chief Judge, insist on Hon Justice Ikpeme

L-R: Ntufam Mba Ukweni SAN and Gov Ben Ayade 
29 November 2019 

The Executive Governor of Cross River State, Sen. Prof. Benedict Ayade has been carpeted by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria over controversies surrounding the appointment of the state Chief Judge. 

Ntufam Mba Ukweni (SAN) has faulted the State Governor's alleged disposition to jettison the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as Amended and other extant rules/guidelines in the appointment of a new occupant into the Office of State Chief Judge with the exit of Honourable Justice Michael Edem on Wednesday this week. 

The legal luminary in a press release signed by him, dated 27th November 2019 and titled: 'Hon. Justice Akon B. Ikpeme must be Appointed the Chief Judge of Cross River State' observed that it has been observed 'with dismay, the unconstitutional and illegal attempts to undermine the judiciary in Cross River State and ridicule the Legal Profession since the commencement of activities relating to the retirement of the Chief Judge of Cross River State Hon. Justice Michael Edem.' According to him, all those attempts are geared towards ensuring that The Honourable Justice Akon B. Ikpeme, who is the next most Senior Judge in the hierarchy of the Cross River State Judiciary... is denied that right and opportunity'. 

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria cited Section 271(4) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic as the provision that establishes that practice. 

In the press release, Ukweni identified one Hon. Justice Maurice Odey Eneji a junior judge as the crony of the Governor  designated to supplant Hon. Justice Ikpeme the most senior judge in the Judiciary of the state to the retiring Hon. Justice Edem. 

Ukweni highlighted ethnicity, gender inequality and clannish interests as being the 'various untenable and uncivilised reasons' underlying this controversy. 

He further disclosed as part of the unwholesome activities to secure this sinister interest, there has been unsuccessful attempts to dissolve, constitute and reconstitute the Cross River State Judicial Service Commission; the wooing, and intimidation of the 9th Cross River State House of Assembly CRSHA to 'adopt unconstitutional and unconventional methods of finding ways to enthroning Hon. Justice Maurice Eneji as the next Chief Judge of the state'; and wooing, cajoling and compromising the certain members of the Bar and the Bench in the state. 

He used the opportunity to appeal to well-meaning Nigerians, the leadership and members of the Cross River State House of Assembly, and the National Judicial Council NJC not to be favourably disposed to the move by the governor to undermine the Constitution. 
According to him, 'there is need to build, consolidate and protect our institutions especially the Judiciary rather than desecrate and destroy them'. 

In a related development, according to a recent ThisDay publication Ukweni who did not mince words in his response over Governor Ayade's confrontation with the state Chief Judge threatened that, 'if the governor succeeds as he is boasting, by putting someone as the next Chief Judge against the constitutional provisions, I will never appear before such a Chief Judge and will personally mobilise other lawyers to boycott that court'.

Justice Eneji was called to Bar in 1983, as against Justice Ikpeme who was called to Bar two years earlier in 1981. So, according to the grundnorm of the country, precedents, rules and regulations Akon is due for the office. 

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