By Akanimo Sampson
Courts in Cross River State are shut down over non-confirmation of Justice Akon Ikpeme, as the Chief Judge of the state.
The state House of Assembly has rejected her nomination.
In a voice vote, the lawmakers 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, Committee Chairman, accepted her nomination as substantive Chief Judge and recommended that the House gives a go-ahead.
But in a parallel report, Godwin Akwaji, representing Obudu State Constituency alongside five others recommended that Justice Ikpeme be rejected because she is not from Cross River.
After extensive deliberation on the matter, the House rejects the two reports and a Committee of the Whole House ultimately rejected her confirmation through a voice vote.
Some members during plenary, condemned the presentation of two reports, saying it’s unprecedented in the history of the Legislature.
Ekpo Bassey, representing Bakassi in the House cautioned 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.
Itam Abang (Boki State Constituency) says, “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 an injustice of the highest order.”
Francis Bassey Asuquo (Odukpani) says Justice Akon Ikpeme is from his constituency and that his people are proud of her.
Disagreeing, Chris Ogar (Etung) who read the parallel report claims her confirmation will constitute a conflict of interest because ‘’she is from Akwa Ibom’’.
The House, according to him, should withhold her confirmation because it will not be in the best interest of Cross River if she is confirmed.
His committee also recommended that the next most senior judge be confirmed.
For Mba Ukweni, SAN, the lawmakers have ridiculed themselves. ‘’They will not be able to control what will be coming next. 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.”
In the meantime, lawyers in the state have embarked on peaceful demonstration marching from the High Court at Mary Slessor to the House, protesting the non-confirmation of the CJ.
Judiciary workers also have shut down the courts, locking out all parties that have matters in the state.