The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has called on the Cross River State Government to complete the appointment and confirmation of Justice Akon Ikpeme as the substantive Chief Judge of the state.
The NBA, in a statement on Monday by its President, Tayo Akpata, said this is in line with National Judicial Council (NJC) recommendation and provisions of the 1999 Constitution of amended.
It would be recalled that controversy had trailed the refusal of the Cross River State House of Assembly to confirm the NJC nomination of Justice Ikpeme as the substantive Chief Judge of the state, despite the expiration of the extension granted by Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammed, to the state government to extend the tenure of Justice Maurice Eneji as Acting Chief Judge of the state.
Akpata said in the statement that the failure of, or refusal by the government of Cross River State to complete the appointment of substantive chief judge, otherwise brews a constitutional crisis and strikes at the very root of the rule of law.
He also contended that the vacancy of the office of chief judge of the state is also crippling judicial activities and is undermining the independence of the judiciary in Cross River State.
The statement reads further: ďWith dismay, the NBA has been following the protracted crisis rocking the judiciary in Cross River State, as the hallowed office of the Chief Judge of the state has remained vacant for about two weeks following the expiration of the three month tenure of Justice Maurice Eneji, who took office in acting capacity in line with the 1999 Constitution (as altered).
ďThe NBA is particularly disturbed by the reasons undergirding the refusal, by the Cross River State House of Assembly, to confirm the recommendation and appointment of Justice Ikpeme as substantive Chief Judge. The NJC has unanimously agreed that the reasons adduced by the House of Assembly are untenable and unsubstantiated, and has reinforced its recommendation of Justice Ikpeme.
ďThe NBA agrees with the NJC in this regard and enjoins the Governor and the House of Assembly of Cross River State to complete the appointment and confirmation of Justice Ikpeme as substantive Chief Judge. To do otherwise would worsen the present imbroglio and significantly diminish public confidence in the judiciary.
ďThe NBA is working with the NJC to speedily resolve this issue before it does further damage to the public perception of the judiciary. It is our duty to defend the rule of law, and we will prod the government of Cross River State to appoint Justice Ikpeme as substantive Chief Judge, in line with the recommendations of the NJC and the long-held judicial tradition of appointing the most senior judicial officer as Chief Judge.
ďThere is no doubt that the casualties of this unfortunate development are the residents of Cross River State, who rely on the judiciary for the resolution of their disputes and for the remediation of their grievances. The NBA, therefore, calls on the government of Cross River State to put the interest of its people and the rule of law first by speedily resolving this constitutional crisis.Ē