Cross River lawmakers differ on confirmation of new CJ

Members of the Cross River House of Assembly yesterday disagreed over the confirmation of the state’s Acting Chief Judge, Justice Akon Ikpeme, as substantive occupant of the seat

After much intrigues by the state government, the National Judicial Council (NJC) confirmed Ikpeme as Acting Chief Judge last December and subsequently the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) directed that Ikpeme be named CJ.

Governor Ben Ayade had set up a parallel State Judicial Service Commission (JSC) that preferred Justice Maurice Eneji as CJ, but since Ikpeme was the most senior judge in the state, it was rejected by another JSC headed by then Chief Judge, Justice Michael Edem.

Consequently, Ayade had no choice than to forward Ikpeme’s name to the House of Assembly last month for confirmation, but up till now, she has not been confirmed, suggesting that the state government was still trying to use the legislative chamber to frustrate Ikpeme’s confirmation.

On the floor of the hallowed chamber yesterday, representative of Bakassi state constituency, Ekpo Ekpo Bassey, drew the attention of the House to the non- confirmation of Justice Ikpeme, saying the development does not augur well for the state.

Another member and Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Public Petitions, Public Service Matters and Conflict Resolution, Efah Esua, also condemned the delay, saying it was not placing the state in good light.

He said: “There were five states involved, including Ekiti, Rivers, Sokoto and Cross River, all others have their chief judges in place but up till now, the speaker has refused to bring the letter to the table.”

But without further discussion on the matter, Speaker Eteng Williams disallowed the members from further debating the matter, as it was not listed for discussion.

He stated: “That is not our rules, what you ask is not before us, we cannot treat that today (yesterday). We treat matters that are before us. If it is a matter that is before us, we will treat it, but it was not listed. That matter is closed.

“We are all Cross River people and we know the dangers of not confirming the Acting Chief Judge, but it is not before us today (yesterday), as I am not aware of any correspondence on the confirmation of the chief judge and so that matter is closed.”

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