From Judex Okoro, Calabar
After barely thirteen months of legal wrangling over who becomes the next substantive Chief Judge of Cross River, Governor Ben Ayade the and House of Assembly have bowed to National Judicial Council (NJC) recommendation by confirming Justice Akon Bassey Ikpeme as the new Chief Judge of the state.
Justice Michael Edem retired as substantive Chief Judge of Cross River in November 2019 and since then the state has had three Acting Chief Judges as they refused to confirm Ikpeme who was recommended by NJC ab initio.
After Justice Ikpeme acted for three months, the House of Assembly rejected her confirmation and 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.
However, the legislative arm made a volta face when they convened an emergency sitting on Thursday and confirmed Justice Akon Ikpeme as substantive Chief Judge following a letter with reference no SSG/S/300/VOL.XVIX/550 and dated January 20 transmitted to them from Governor Ayade.
In the letter signed by the Secretary to State Government (SSG), Tina Banku Agbor, the governor sought for the confirmation of Justice Akon Ikpeme as substantive Chief Judge in line with the power conferred on him by Section 271(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The House presided over by the Speaker, Rt Hon Eteng William, in a unanimous yes-vote, confirmed Ikpeme after the motion moved by the Leader, Hon Peter Odey (Ogoja) and seconded by Whip, Hon Okon Ephraim (Calabar South 1).
William, before the motion, had told members that this is the third time the letter from the governor concerning this matter has been sent to them and therefore they was no need for further debates and thanked them for their solidarity.
He directed the clerk of the House, Bassey Ekpenyong, Esq, to forward the letter of Ikpeme’s confirmation to the governor for onward transmission to NJC.