It is no longer news that the recommendation of Justice Akon Ikpeme as substantive CJ by the NJC and her subsequent appointment by the Governor on the 8th day of January 2020 was brought to a lawful close on the 2nd of March 2020 when the Cross River state House of Assembly in exercise of its powers under Section 271 (1) of the CFRN 1999 (as amended) rejected her confirmation on grounds of security. Coincidentally and unfortunately also, her appointment as Acting Chief Justice by the Governor which was occasioned by the retirement of Justice Michael Edem and made according to Section 271 (4) of the CFRN 1999 (as amended) also expired on the same day and the resolution of the CRHA was duly communicated to the Executive on the same day.
The governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade we learned on receipt of the resolution of the house and the advice of the State Attorney General and Commissioner for justice on the need to ensure that a vacuum was not created in the headship of the Judiciary and in compliance with Section 271 (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), proceeded the next day to swear in the most senior judge, Justice Maurice Odey Eneji in acting capacity pending the recommendation of a substantive Chief Judge by the NJC for appointment.
According to law the appointment of Justice Maurice Eneji will also lapse at the expiration of 3 months after which the Governor will have to reappoint another in line with Section 271 (5) of the CFRN 1999 (as amended).
However, the house has called for sanctions on the President of the NBA, Paul Usoro SAN whom they accuse of issuing unguarded press statements that are aimed at deriding the sovereign and independent status of the House of Assembly as an arm of Government.
“It is important to place on record that even though the committee received petitions bothering on the origin of Justice Akon Ikpeme, but it is instructive to state that she was not rejected on the flimsy ground of being a non-indigene by birth but on weighty and damaging security reasons which the House decided not to divulge because of the grave implications it will have on the person of Justice Akon Ikpeme”.
In a press statement, the house noted that its fear of external influence on Cross River State, which it expressed and based its rejection of Justice Akon Ikpeme on is what Mr Paul Usoro SAN is now exhibiting as they have been vindicated in rejecting the confirmation of Justice Akon Ikpeme as substantive CJ.
What went down?
One of the ‘weighty and damaging security reasons’ according to the house SecretReporters learned was that Justice Akon Ikpeme allegedly mobilized armed thugs from Akwa Ibom state, two of whom were later arrested and are still in police custody, to disrupt the sitting of the House on Friday 28th February 2020.
She was also accused among many other of allegedly shutting down all courts in the state as she ordered JUSUN to mobilize all her members to the CRHA to impress and compel members of the CRHA to confirm her through threat messages.
Furthermore, the house in its allegations also stated that Mr Paul Usoro SAN who hails from Ukana Ikot Ntuen town in Essien Udim LGA of Akwa Ibom State was using his last few months in office as president of NBA to fight ethnic battles and usurp constitutional duties to impose his fellow sister from Akwa Ibom state Justice Akon Ikpeme as chief Judge of Cross Rivers state through the same illegal and fraudulent ways he orchestrated the taking of oil wells belonging to cross River State and eventual ceding of the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula to the Republic of Cameroon which they claim has reduced the state to penury and excruciating social tension and economic hardship.
The petition of accepting bribe from a former Senator, Judiciary obtainment of judgment by fraud since Mr Mba Nkweni SAN influences all her judgments, and many other damaging reports which the committee considered as too damaging to divulge with its wide security implications the house stated were the reasons for the rejection of the confirmation Justice Akon Ikpeme and not merely her origin from Akwa Ibom state as widely speculated