The muffled rift between Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade and the outgoing Chief Judge, CJ, of the state, Justice Michael Edem, finally came out in the open with the CJ’s bold pronouncements at the formal opening of the 2019/2020 legal year in Calabar, Cross River State.
At his speech at the occasion, Edem revealed that he has been locked out of his official residence by Ayade and further lamented that all appeals to the governor to hand him the keys, have fallen on deaf ears. “The fact of the matter is that during the last Green Carnival programme of the state, the Governor called for the keys to accommodate two Governors since the available government guest houses were not in a position to accommodate them. I was told that for security reasons, the Governors would not be accommodated with my staff. (Who were living in the back house). So they would have to move out of the quarters. sincerely believing that it was a mere palliative or a temporary measure, I conceded.”
Continuing: “…fortunately the event had since come and gone and I have written to His Excellency to surrender the keys and by extension the property back to me for the use of the premises in the opening of the legal year and my forthcoming November retirement events. Besides, I had clearly spelt out in the letter that ‘….it shall be my duty to surrender the keys and by extension the property to my successor’. I still await his reaction. “If that is what is meant by ceding and forceful ejection, then the words cede and eject cry to the high heavens for a redefinition. I am much at home with the legal decree that I cannot give out or cede what I have not.”
On the delay in swearing in the two new judges screened and confirmed by the National Judiciary Council, the CJ said, “It is worrisome to note that in the outgone year, two judges were appointed and approved by the National Judicial Council for swearing-in, regrettably, this has since become distant drums at the instance of His Excellency, the Governor, who has refused to swear them in. I sue for the lifting of the swearing-in embargo forthwith. Otherwise, we stand to miss the two slots plus three already given to us for 2019. The self-induced catastrophe can be unimaginably conflagrating.”
While they have been public insinuations that the state governor may circumvent the succession rules governing the selection of a new CJ, after Edem retires next month, credence was given to this insinuations when the state chief law officer submitted that, “I cannot and will not as a commander of the law stand the constitution on the head to rape it against the sword of the nihilism of the NJC, and I will cite the constitutional provisions in section 271 (4) which says, “….the Governor of the state shall appoint the most senior Judge of the High Court…It calls for no debate as to who is the most senior Judge of the Cross River State High Court after me. Indisputably, the most senior Judge, for the avoidance of any illusion, is Justice Akon Bassey Ikpeme, admitting of no sentiment.”
Competent Government House, Calabar, sources refused to comment on the address, insisting instead that the state government will address the issues raised in the address shortly.
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