June 14, 2024

Re: Justice Akon Ikpeme: ‘The Pending Appeal at the Supreme Court is a Public Interest Litigation’- Kunle Edun

The NBA National Welfare Secretary, Kunle Edun has confirmed that the Plaintiffs/Appellants have no desire to withdraw the appeal filed at the Supreme Court.

Recall that on the the 2nd day of December, 2020 the Court of Appeal sitting in Calabar delivered a judgment dismissing the appeal filed by the Appellants challenging the decision of the Federal High Court, Calabar upholding the non confirmation of Honorable Justice Akon Ikpeme as the Chief Judge of Cross River State on the ground of security reasons attributed to her not being from Cross River State.

The Appellants in the case are Olukunle Edun, Ike Augustine, O. Adams Ochuagu, Emmanuel Ewere and Adedapo Adejumo.

Mr. Edun also confirmed that the counsel for the Appellants have indicated their desire to continue their pro bono legal representation for the Appellants in the appeal. The list of counsel includes Chief Ferdinand Orbhi, SAN; Femi Falana, SAN; J.S. Okutepa, SAN; Anthony Malki, SAN; Afam Osigwe, SAN and Ikhide Ehighelua (Vice Chairman of SPIDEL).

Reasons adduced for the continuation of the appeal are that the originating action sought to enforce the fundamental right of Hon. Justice Akon Ikpeme to freedom from discrimination when the Cross River State House of Assembly considered her State of origin as a factor in confirming her. That was an instant violation of her right to freedom from discrimination as guaranteed under the 1999 Constitution, as amended; and also that the action was not filed in her name but as a public interest litigation. Therefore, the action survives her confirmation.

According to Kunle Edun, the issue of denial of non indigenes from occupying the office of Chief Judges of States even when they are still serving Judges of the State High Court is a worrying recurring trend and that the Supreme Court should be given the opportunity to intervene.

“Gombe State is having similar issue and has been without a substantive Chief Judge for almost a year. The present acting Chief Judge is on his 4th term as acting Chief Judge. Justice Illiya who is the most senior Judge in the State is being bypassed inspite of the directive of the NJC that her name must be included in the list for consideration. That certainly cannot be the intendment of the drafters of the 1999 Constitution.” Kunle Edun averred.

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