Judex Okoro, Calabar
Some members of the Cross River State House of Assembly have kicked against the Assembly refusal to confirm Justice Akon Ikpeme as substantive chief judge (CJ).
Ikpeme, who is from Southern Senatorial District, was last year confirmed as substantive chief judge by the National Judicial Council.
Governor Ben Ayade later forwarded her name to the Assembly in January for confirmation but the House has declined to consider it.
Justice Ikpeme tenure as acting chief judge would expire on March 2, 2020 if the House fails to confirm her.
During yesterday’s plenary, Ekpo Ekpo Bassey, representing Bakassi, drew the House attention to this and was over ruled by Speaker William Eteng, as the matter was not listed for consideration.
Decrying this, Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary, Public Petition, Public Service Matters and Conflict Resolution, Efah Esua, said the delay does not augur well for the state’s development
Esua said: “There were five states involved, including Ekiti, Rivers, Sokoto and Cross River. While others have their chief judges in place, up till now, the speaker has refused to bring the letter to the table.
“My worry is the attendant effect on the state because we are not going to have a chief judge and no judge will be appointed to either the Court of Appeals or the Federal High Court.
“Even the purported local government elections they want to conduct, an acting CJ will not set up a petition tribunal which ought to have been in place 30 days to the election and must be done by a substantive chief judge,” he said.
He called on the House leadership to bring the confirmation request from the governor to the table for consideration so as not to throw the state into a constitutional crisis.
Sources close to the Assembly leadership revealed that Speaker Eteng is allegedly playing a script from the executive arm of government which is not favourably disposed to working with the acting chief judge.
The development is creating tension and division among the members from the southern and northern senatorial districts.
It was also alleged that the executive prefers Justice Maurice Eneji, Governor Ayade’s kinsmen, as a substantive chief judge.