Olumide Akpata Speaks on the Unlawful Non-confirmation of Cross River State Chief Judge, Says Merit must be Elevated above Primordial Sentiments

Olumide Akpata

I read with relief, the intervention of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) under the hand of the President of the Association, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN over the issue of the purported rejection, by the Cross River State House of Assembly, of the nomination of Hon. Justice Akon Bassey Ikpeme as the substantive Chief Judge of the State on grounds that she is from Akwa Ibom State and therefore poses a security risk to Cross River State.

As the NBA President appositely noted, even a cursory investigation will reveal that Justice Akon Ikpeme was born in Cross River State, has lived her entire life in the State, is married to a Cross Riverian, raised all her children there and has served the State meritoriously for almost 4 decades, ultimately rising to becoming the most senior Judicial Officer in the State. The action of the Cross River State is therefore as bewildering as it is unconstitutional.

Whilst the legislative arm of government is entitled to carry out its constitutional duties, it must only do so in a way that furthers the peace, order and good government of the Federation or the State as the case may be. This is doubly so when such duties involve the sacred institution of the judiciary and the exalted office of the Chief Judge of a State.

The Nigeria of our dreams is the one where merit is elevated above primordial sentiments like State of origin, religion, sex or ethnicity. I join the NBA President and all well meaning Nigerians in calling on the Cross River State House of Assembly in the interest of peace, order and good order to retrace their steps and allow wise counsel prevail by confirming Justice Akon Ikpeme as the rightful Chief Judge of the State. I also endorse the call for Honourable Justice Maurice Eneji to honourably relinquish the position Ag. Chief Judge of the State, failing which the National Judicial Council (NJC) must apply the requisite sanctions to restore the dignity of the office.


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