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Kebbi governor swears in Ambursa as acting CJ

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Governor of Kebbi, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu

• Former Acting CJ Kicks, Accuses Gov Of Religious Bias
• It’s Not True, Her Predecessor Was A Christian, Says Speaker

The former acting Chief Judge (CJ) of Kebbi State, Justice Esther Asabe Karatu, has written a petition to the National Judicial Council (NJC) over Governor Atiku Bagudu’s alleged refusal to confirm her as substantive CJ of the state.

In the petition, Justice Karatu said politics of religion and her firm belief in justice and fairness were some of the reasons the governor denied her rights, despite the recommendation of the NJC.

Meanwhile, the governor, yesterday, swore in Justice Suleiman Ambursa as Acting Chief Judge of the state, following the alleged refusal of the State House of Assembly to confirm the appointment of Justice Karatu. On January 17, this year, the Kebbi State House of Assembly had confirmed Justice Karatu as substantive CJ of the state, but the governor allegedly refused to act on the assembly’s confirmation.

In a purported letter to the governor circulated in the media, referenced KBHA/LEG/001/XI and entitled, ‘Re: Appointment and request for confirmation of Justice Elizabeth Asabe Karatu as Chief Judge of Kebbi State,’ conveying the Assembly’s approval, Speaker of the Assembly, Abdulmumini Kamba, was reported to have written: “Reference to your submission dated, November 6, 2018, I am glad to inform you that at an Executive Session held on Thursday, January 17, 2019, the House resolved and confirmed Justice Elizabeth Asabe Karatu as the Chief Judge of Kebbi State.”

The Guardian learnt that Justice Karatu, who is due to retire on July 5, this year, was also denied the right to swear-in the governor on May 29, a duty the Grand Khadi of the state, Muhtar Imam Jega performed.But the Secretary to the Kebbi State Government, Babale Yauri, said the refusal of the governor to confirm Justice Karatu as substantive chief judge was not because of her religion, saying: “The state Assembly did not screen her, because of some discrepancies in her credentials. It was not the governor’s fault and his action has nothing to do with religion.”

Yauri said the letter purportedly sent to the governor by the Assembly was fake, as it was not duly signed.But in the petition to NJC, Justice Karatu also made case against the appointment of Justice Mohammed Sulaiman Ambursa to replace her, noting: “The practice in the judiciary is that when judges are to be sworn into office, the one who was first called to bar would be sworn in first and thus he becomes the senior.

“However, in our case, Justice Ambursa was sworn in first even though I was called to the Bar six years before him. I was called to the bar in 1980 while Justice Ambursa was called in 1986.”

But at the ceremony, Bagudu said: “It baffles me when I read a story on social media that I did not forward Karatu’s name for confirmation because of her religion. If you could recall, I re-submitted the name of Karatu for the second time on June 2, 2018 to the House for confirmation as Chief Judge.“I was informed that on August 1, 2018, the House refused to confirm her appointment over alleged alteration of her date of birth and primary school certificate.”

The governor said he lobbied the lawmakers to ensure Karatu was confirmed to no avail, and even wrote to the NJC on his efforts to ensure Karatu was confirmed by the House without fruitful outcome, insisting that the refusal to confirm her was not based on her faith.He, however, urged the new Acting Chief Justice to ensure proper things are done in the judiciary, saying: “Our state is at the cross- road now, you must right the wrongs.”

Earlier, Kamba explained that the House, not the governor, has the power to confirm the appointment of a chief judge, adding: “The purported letter mentioned in the story on social media said to be from the House addressed to the governor was never written by any member.”

Kamba also condemned the story in its entirety, adding there was no truth in the allegation of religious bias in the case, adding: “It is worthy to note that the former acting chief judge of the state before Karatu was of Christian faith. “Kebbi State is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state and every faith or ethnicity is treated equally.”

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