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Cross River State NBA declares newly inaugurated judicial commission nullity


Cross River State governor, Senator Ben Ayade

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Calabar Branch, has declared the purported inauguration of the new Judiciary Service Commission (JSC) as a nullity.The state governor, Ben Ayade, had on Monday inaugurated a four-man commission without the state’s Chief Judge (CJ) as the chairman.The association, in a statement in Calabar yesterday signed by Paul Ebiala and Effiom Ayi as Chairman and Secretary at its emergency meeting held on October 29, 2019, reviewed “the unfortunate development of the purported inauguration of new members of the commission by Governor Ayade on October 28, 2019, as well as the illegality of the action.”

The association viewed the act “as a grave infraction of the provisions of Section 197 (i) (c), 198, 199 (c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended) as well as sections 2, 4, 5 of the Judicial Service Commission Law, Cap 12. Vol. 4 of the Laws of CRS, 2004.”They said: “The five-year tenure appointment of the members of the commission, which took effect from June 7, 2017, having not expired, the governor cannot legally appoint new members of the commission.

“Secondly, by the combined effects of Section 198 of the Constitution and Section 2 (2) of the JSC Law, no person shall be appointed as a member of the commission without confirmation by the state House of Assembly” just like no member can be removed “without two-thirds majority of the state House of Assembly. “No such removal has been made to the association’s knowledge prompting it to request that Ayade reverses his action and allows status quo ante bellum to remain.”

However, following the said swearing-in, the state Chief Judge, Justice Michael Edem and other judges on Monday walked out of the inauguration of the new members of the commission. The chief judge and other judges declined to participate in the swearing-in ceremony of members of the commission, saying that the procedure was wrong.

Usually, the chief judge of the state is the chairman of the commission but was surprised when a new list of the commission members was paraded with another person as the chairman excluding the chief judge. The chief judge at this point walked out with others when he realised that the governor was to swear new members instead of validating the old members with the Chief Judge as Chairman.

The Deputy Governor, Prof. Ivara Esu, who represented the governor, performed the swearing-in of the new members of the commission.A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mba Ukweni, equally condemned the action by the governor, saying it is “unconstitutional” as “the constitutional provision states that the tenure of office of the four-member Judicial Service Commission is to be five years.

Meanwhile, Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Governor, Mr. Christian Ita, said there was no walk-out.“Nobody walked out. They left the exco chamber before the event began. They waited in the exco chamber like everyone else and left before the deputy governor arrived for the event. So, it is wrong to say they walked out when the event had not started when they left,” he said.


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