Thursday, May 23, 2024

Cross River: Constitutional crisis looms as Assembly rejects Chief Judge

The Cross River State House of Assembly has rejected the nomination of Justice Akon Ikpeme as substantive Chief Judge of the state.

The house, in a voice vote declined her confirmation after rejecting two parallel reports presented by a divided committee on Judiciary which was set up to screen Ikpeme.

In one of the reports, Efah Esua Chairman of the committee accepted her nomination as substantive Chief Judge and recommended that the house should give a go-ahead.

However, in a parallel report, Godwin Akwaji representing Obudu state constituency alongside five others recommended that Akon be rejected because she is not from Cross River.


As a result of this impasse, the House after extensive deliberations, rejected both reports and a committee of the whole house ultimately rejected her confirmation through a voice vote.

During plenary, some members condemned the presentation of two reports, saying its unprecedented in the history of the legislature.

Ekpo Ekpo Bassey member representing Bakassi in the house cautioned the House against setting a bad precedence.

“This is my fifth year in the House and I have never seen two reports by a committee being presented to the House.

“The House has to be on the side of Justice at all times and avoid setting a bad precedent. We need to strengthen institutions and avoid sowing seeds of ethnicity and disunity in the House”, he said.

Also speaking, Itam Abang from Boki State Constituency said, “Never in the history of the House have we had two reports. It’s very sad that in the 21st century we are whipping up ethnic sentiments.

“It’s wrong to whip up ethnic sentiments because we have children and don’t know where they will be married to. She gave the state her productive years and rejecting her on account of her origin is injustice of the highest order”, she said.


Also speaking Francis Bassey Asuquo representing Odukpani state constituency said Akon is from his constituency Odukpani and his people are proud of her.

He added that states were created for administrative convenience and Akon’s record of service is impeacable.

However Chris Ogar from Etung State constituency who read the parallel report said her confirmation will constitute a conflict of interest because she is from Akwa Ibom.

He said the house should withhold her confirmation because it will not be on the best interest of Cross River State if she is confirmed.

His committee also recommended that the next most senior judge be confirmed.

Speaking shortly after the sitting, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ntufam Mba Ukweni lamented the action of the members of the House and said, “The House has put all of us into a mess.”

“They have ridiculed themselves because the next event that will unfold, definitely, they will not be able to control it. The National Judicial Commission is not going to nominate or recommend any other person rather than Justice Akon Ikpeme as the substantive Chief Judge of the State,” he stated.
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