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Governor Ayade shuns NJC, appoints new acting CJ

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Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade has sworn in Justice Maurice Eneji as Acting Chief Judge of the state without a endorsement of the National Judicial Council (NJC).

His swearing-in yesterday followed a controversial session at the state House of Assembly on Monday having declined to confirm Justice Akon Ikpeme as substantive Chief Judge because she hailed from Akwa Ibom State and fears that making her substantive Chief Judge constituted a security risk.

Ayade said Eneji’s swearing in was imperative, as law and nature abhor vacuum and congratulated the ne Acting Chief Judge on his appointment, urging him to dispense justice without fear or favour.

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He said, “I urge you to dispense justice without fear or favour, you have to fair. The law is blind and should not be sensitive to religion, ethnicity, colour or any other affiliation.

“We ask that the judiciary under your watch should be very exemplary and should be such that every other state would like to emulate. We know your background and believe that you are competent and capable and worthy of this office.

Ayade, who preferred Eneji to Ikpeme at the onset because she (Ikpeme) was from Akwa Ibom State but married to a Cross River for over 40 years, used the occasion to clarify on how receptive the state was to everyone, irrespective of where they came from.

“Cross River State is known for fairness, equity and we are opposed to anything repugnant to natural justice. Our people are not known for bias and prejudices,” he added.

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Responding to his appointment, Eneji pledged to enthrone a number of reforms that would aide justice delivery in the state, promising to be a listening judge.

“My appointment came to me as a beautiful surprise. I am coming to the office with a mind to listen. The sacred duty of a judge is to listen before adjudicating. I will listen to ensure that justice is served at all times.”

However, some individuals have argued that Ayade’s action and that of the lawmakers constituted a breach of constitutional procedures and technical insisting that Justice Ikpeme was forced into early retirement except the NJC intervened.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mba Ukweni condemned Ayade’s action saying, “He has never done anything right. The NJC which is responsible for appointment, promotion and discipline of judges had taken a decision and recommended somebody for the position and I stand by that person.”

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Ben AyadeNJC
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