Few hours after the Cross River House of Assembly (CRHA) voted against confirming Justice Akon Ikpeme as Chief Judge, Governor Ben Ayade has sworn in Justice Maurice Eneji, as the acting Chief Judge. Eneji is the second acting Chief Judge to be appointed by the governor within the last four months.
Justice Ikpeme’s appointment has been the subject of intrigues since mid-last year prior to the retirement of the immediate past Chief Judge, Justice Michael Edem, even though Ikpeme is said to be the most senior Judge in the state judiciary after the retired Edem.
The governor was said to have been favorably disposed to having Justice Maurice Eneji as CJ, and not Justice Ikpeme even though Eneji is junior to Ikpeme. He later bowed to pressure from the judiciary, lawyers and other stakeholders by appointing Justice Ikpeme on acting capacity in December 2019
In early January, the governor dispatched a letter to the House for her confirmation but the lawmakers rejected her saying an Akwa Ibom woman, though married to a Cross Riverian, would become a security threat to the state if confirmed as CJ.
Swearing in the new acting chief judge on Tuesday, Ayade said the action was because nature abhors a vacuum.
“I urge you to dispense justice without fear or favour, you have to have fairness of mind. The law is blind and should not be sensitive to religion, ethnicity, colour or any other affiliation.”
Speaking, the new acting chief judge pledged to initiate a number of reforms that would aide justice delivery in the state.
However, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has expressed worry with development, fearing that the scenario could affect the conduct of the local government election scheduled for March 28, 2020.