More than ten months since Justice Akon Ikpeme emerged as the substantive Chief Judge of Cross River, the State governor, Ben Ayade on Monday finally allowed reason to prevail over politics, as he swore her into office after the initial opposition by the State House of Assembly.
The swearing-in ceremony took place in Calabar, the State capital following the decision by the state lawmakers on Thursday, January 28 to rescind their earlier resolve last year not to confirm Justice Ikpeme’s nomination as the State Chief Judge,
At the swearing ceremony, Governor Ayade said the ceremony brought to a close the internal concerns of the people of the state about the instability in the Cross River Judiciary.
The governor maintained that Justice Ikpeme had been chosen by God as a woman of great conscience and one with the fear of God.
Members of the Cross River State House of Assembly withheld the confirmation of Justice Ikpeme as the substantive nominee for the position of the State Chief Judge on ground that she was an indigene of the neighbouring Akwa Ibom State married to a Cross River State husband.
Despite several pleas to reason, the lawmakers held on to the sentiment for more than ten months, by refusing to confirm the woman’s nomination.
“I am of the opinion that everyone of us, both the legislature and executive, should give her (Justice Ikpeme) all the supports that she would need, because we need stability in all arms of government in the state.
“As a child of God, those who come before you to seek justice, dispense justice, ensure that no injustice is done.
“Be firm and know that the position you have attained today is given to you by God; no one fought your battle, it was God who fought it,” Mr Ayade said.
In her remarks, Justice Ikpeme said the people of Cross River should expect a judiciary that is forward moving, assuring that she has put her experience of past behind her and was ready to move the state judiciary forward.
“If God has been gracious enough to make this day possible, it will be foolhardy for me to continue to dwell in the past.
“Like I discussed with the governor, there are areas we really need to catch up on and I intend to do just that. I have those areas in mind and I pray that by the grace of God before my tenure elapses, we will have advanced in those areas.
“I advise my colleagues in the judiciary to be up and doing, because I cannot do it alone. We need to put heads together and identify grey areas in the state judiciary and ensure that we move the state forward together,” she said.
Similarly, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Apata, who was present at the ceremony said the NBA was extremely delighted that Justice Ikpeme has finally been sworn-into office.
Mr Apata said the NBA was part of the process to ensure the right thing was done in the state, adding that the NBA would continue to take special interests in what happens in Cross River State.
“For us at NBA, it is a fitting climax to a long process, and I am glad that we have been able to achieve this fantastic outcome that reflects our constitution and the rule of law.
“I am very grateful to God today. So, I call on the new Chief Judge to work assiduously in ensuring that all is well because she is inheriting a judiciary with issues.
“I expect her to work with other arms of government in the state, but I also expect her to uphold the independence of the judiciary which is extremely critical for development to take place,” he said.
Justice Ikpeme who was born on October 21, 1959 was first appointed the Acting Chief Judge of Cross River from December 3 2019 to March 2, 2020.
She was, however, denied confirmation by the state House of Assembly to serve as the substantive State Chief Judge, giving room for the swearing-in of Justice Maurice Eneji and Justice Eyo Effiom-Ita who served in acting capacities between March 2020 and January 2021. (NAN)