Chief Judge seat vacant for 5 days - Cross River judiciary crisis
Tiamiyu Saheed Oluwatosin
Five days after the expiration of the tenure of Acting Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Maurice Eneji, her replacement is yet to be appointed.
Press correspondent, who visited the headquarters of the Judiciary along Mary Slessor Avenue on Monday, observed that a new acting or substantive Chief Judge was yet to be appointed
The tenure of the Acting Chief Judge of the State, Justice Maurice Odey Eneji expired midnight of last Wednesday September 2nd 2020.
A judicial officer who pleaded for anonymity said that Justice Eneji has served his 2nd tenure as Acting Chief Judge and cannot be appointed again.
“Even Justice Akon Ikpeme whom the State House of Assembly declined confirmation because she is from Akwa Ibom State by birth but married to Cross Riverian had served her first and second tenure as Acting Chief Judge.
“You know that the State House of Assembly said that appointing Justice Ikpeme as Chief Judge would amount to security risk even as the National Judicial Commission (NJC) had recommended her,” our source stated.
Speaking with our correspondent, a senior legal luminary in the State, who pleaded that his name should not be mentioned regretted the non confirmation of the substantive Chief Judge of the State.
He said, “The crisis that rocked the Cross River State Judiciary may be far from over as that arm of government has been without a head for five days now.
“The last acting Chief Judge, Justice Maurice Eneji served out the second of his acting terms of three months on September 3, 2020. And, since then, no one has filled that void.”
“The crisis began when the House of Assembly refused to confirm Justice Akon Ikpeme with reports suggesting that the Governor, Ben Ayade had directed so in order for his ally, Justice Eneji who is junior to Ikpeme, to be appointed Chief Judge. in spite of that, the prevailing narrative was that she was not a Cross Riverian and hence, constituted a security risk.
“Her parents were from present day Akwa Ibom but she had served in the Cross River ministry of justice where she rose to the position of Director of Public Prosecution before she was nominated and subsequently sworn in as a Judge of the High Court of Cross River State,” our source revealed.
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