The President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Olumide Akpata has commended the recent swearing in of Hon. Justice Ikpeme as the bona fide Chief Judge of Cross River State.
Mr. Akpata made this known in a statement on Thursday that “The news of the confirmation of Hon Justice Akon Ikpeme as the substantive Chief Judge of Cross River State by the House of Assembly is very welcome news. It should not have taken this long but this is a victory for the rule of law & the doctrine of supremacy of the Constitution.
“I commend all parties involved for bringing about a successful end to the saga and restate the commitment of the NBA under my administration to continually advocate for good governance at all levels of government, respect for the rule of law and due process.”
Recall that in 2020, the Cross River State House of Assembly had declined to approve the Hon. Justice Ikpeme as the substantive number one judicial officer of the state labelling her a “security risk” because she is a “non-indigene”.
The leadership of the NBA swiftly intervened by calling on the Cross River State executive and legislature to respect the rule of law by confirming the jurist’s appointment.
In the heat of the crisis, Akpata had commented in a statement dated 14th September, 2020, that “The NBA is particularly disturbed by the reasons undergirding the refusal, by the Cross River State House of Assembly, to confirm the recommendation and appointment of Hon. Justice Akon Ikpeme as substantive Chief Judge. The NJC has unanimously agreed that the reasons adduced by the House of Assembly are untenable and unsubstantiated, and has reinforced its recommendation of Hon. Justice Akon Ikpeme.
“The NBA agrees with the NIC in this regard and enjoins the Governor and the House of Assembly of Cross River State to complete the appointment and confirmation of Hon. Justice Akon Ikpeme as substantive Chief Judge. To do otherwise would worsen the present imbroglio and significantly diminish public confidence in the judiciary.”
“The NBA is working with the NJC to speedily resolve this issue before it does further damage to the public perception of the judiciary. It is our duty to defend the rule of law, and we will prod the government of Cross River State to appoint Hon. Justice Akon Ikpeme as substantive Chief Judge, in line with the recommendations of the NIC and the long-held judicial tradition of appointing the most senior judicial officer as Chief Judge.”
A group of lawyers active in public interest litigation, Olukunle Edun, Ike Augustine, Emmanuel Ewere, O. Adams Ochuagu, and Adedapo Adejumo also took the bold step of challenging the non-confirmation of Justice Ikpeme in court citing discrimination.
In that case, Hon. Justice S.A. Amobeda ruled that there were no sufficient evidence to prove that Hon. Justice Ikpeme was rejected by the House of Assembly due His Lordship’s state of origin
Another lawyer, First Baba Isa also sued the Governor of Cross River State and the Cross River State House of Assembly for rejecting Justice Ikpeme as Chief Judge of the State.
Nigeria’s legal community is pleased by this momentous victory for its anti-impunity efforts.