NJC won’t confirm junior judge as Cross River CJ, says Ndoma-Egba
Senator Ndoma-Egba has warned that the National Judicial Council (NJC) will not bow to pressure to confirm a junior judge as substantive Chief Judge of Cross River State.
For about 10 months the state has remained without a substantive Chief Judge since Justice Michael Edem retired in November last year.
The state government and House of Assembly prefer a junior judge, Justice Maurice Eneji, who has beein occupying the postion in an acting capacity, to emerge over his senior, Justice Akon Ikpeme, on the grounds that Ikpeme is a security risk to the state as she is from Akwa Ibom, although married to a Cross River husband and her mother from the state.
This has pitted the state government against the NJC, which has insisted that seniority is sacrosanct in the judiciary.
“Nobody has anything personal with the governor, but you are governor by virtue of the constitution; he swore to an oath to defend and protect that constitution. All we are saying is abide by the constitution and do the correct thing. You cannot make people suffer because you have a personal preference. It is not the first time it is happening, it happened in Imo State and what did they do, they just retired the person who made himself available,” Ndoma-Egba told reporters at the weekend in Calabar.
“If we can accept one from the West Indies as Chief Justice, Ibo as Solicitor General, a Ghanaian as Director of Public Prosecutions, how come we cannot accept somebody whose husband is Efik and children are Efik. The constitution is very clear and it says the next most senior judge when there is a vacancy.”
On the implications of the matter, the former Senate Leader said litigants cannot have access to court again because fresh cases cannot be handled.
According to the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, it is only the Chief Judge that can assign cases.
He said the situation had affected lawyers who rely on cases for their livelihood.
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