From Judex Okoro, Calabar
Barely thirteen months of legal battles over who becomes the next substantive Chief Judge of Cross River, Governor Ben Ayade has sworn-in Justice Akon Bassey Ikpeme as the new Chief Judge of the state following National Judicial Council (NJC) recommendation.
Since Justice Michael Edem retired as substantive Chief Judge of Cross River in November 2019, the state has had three Acting Chief Judges as they refused to confirm Ikpeme who was recommended by NJC ab initio.
Thise who had acted include Justice Ikpeme for three months, Justice Maurice Eneji, Ikpeme’s junior, acted for six months and later Justice Effiom Eyo-Ita, who was sworn-in on October 2020. Ita’s tenure elapsed as Acting Chief Judge on January 19, 2021.
The governor while swearing her in at the Executive Council Chambers, said only God fought her battle and her inauguration will bring stability to the judiciary, adding that Ikpeme is a woman with great conscience as well as a covenant child.
He said: “Today brings to a close the internal concerns and worries of the people over the stability of the judiciary. We do not need any distraction and want a very stable judiciary.
“Justice Ikpeme is a woman with great conscience and a covenant child. God’s will has prevailed, no man fought your battle but only God.
“As God touched my heart, so did he touch the heart of every one to support your emergence. As a child of God, I pray that God will touch your soul and ensure that there is no injustice in Justice dispensation in the state”, the governor said.
Also speaking, the National President of the Nigerian Bar Association,
Olumide Akpata, Esq, said they are delighted that the process has come to an end.
“I am glad that all the dramatis personae have been able to come to this fantastic outcome that reflects the intendment of our constitution.
“Democracy runs on the three arms of government, they stand independently but they must also collaborate for it to succeed.
“She is inheriting a judiciary with issues and I am praying she has the wisdom to navigate the stormy waters and uphold the independence of the judiciary which is very critical”, the NBA president said.
In her response Justice Akon Ikpeme said: “We have kept the past behind us and are moving forward.
“God has been gracious to us by making this day possible and it will be foolhardy to dwell on the past, we are moving forward.”
She said the governor is humane and promised to collaborate with other arms of government to move the state forward.
Justice Ikpeme was born on October 21, 1959 and was first appointed as a judge in the state judiciary on November 16, 1998 and the second woman Chief Judge of the state after Justice Dorothy Eyamba Idem.