The National Judicial Council (NJC) has directed the governor of Cross River State, Senator Ben Ayade, to swear in Justice Akon Ikpeme as the substantive Chief Judge of the state.
Top Judiciary sources in Abuja told Pillar Today that the NJC gave the directives yesterday (April 23) after a protracted meeting in Abuja.
Our sources, which leaked the outcome of the meeting to this newspaper, said the NJC dismissed out-rightly allegations put forward by the State House of Assembly that Justice Akon was a security risk.
“The NJC unanimously agreed that Justice Ikpeme could not be a security risk considering the fact that all security agencies in the country had cleared her. Accordingly they turned down the State government’s request for the NJC to accept another person insisting that Justice Ikpeme remained the most senior judge in the Cross River state Judiciary,” our source said.
He also claimed that the NJC may refer the acting Chief Judge, Justice Maurice Eneji, to a disciplinary committee, but said details of the meeting would be made public soon.
It could be recalled that after being appointed in acting capacity on December 3, 2019 following the retirement of former Chief Judge, Justice Michael Edem, the House of Assembly on March 3, 2020 rejected Ikpeme.
The House said her confirmation would pose security threat to Cross River State since she is an indigene of Akwa Ibom, and that the best interest of the state would not be served if she becomes the substantive Chief Judge
Uproar had greeted the decision as many individuals, professional bodies, organizations and groups protested against the government’s decision even as they saw the development as travesty of justice.
Some of the groups which protested included Mbono Iban Isong Efik Association, Gender and Development Action, Eniong Women Association, Women4Women Community, FIDA-CRS, Efik Leadership Foundation, and Henshaw Town Women Association.
Others were Women in CAN, Nigeria Youth AIDS Program, Nka Iban Uko, CCAPI, Neigbourhood Care Well Foundation, The Women Voice and Leadership project Nigeria, Centre for Training and Development Activities, and many others.