By John Okoh
The acting Chief Judge of Kebbi State, Esther Asabe Karatu, has petitioned the National Judicial Council to intervene in her case with Governor Atiku Bagudu.
She alleged in the petition that the governor has refused to confirm her as substantive chief judge of the state even after the House of Assembly had screened and recommended her.
But due to some religious and political considerations, she claimed, the governor, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Ramatu Gulma have collude to deny her the appointment in preference to their ‘buddy’, Justice Mohammed Sulaiman Ambursa.
She mentioned names of dignitaries connected with her travail in the petition, such as Vice-President Osinbajo, former Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, former Governor of the state, and later senator, Adamu Aliero.
According to her: “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 6 years before him. I was called to the bar in 1980 while Justice Ambursa was called in 1986.
“After the retirement of Justice Ibrahim Bala, I was sworn in as Acting Chief Judge being the most Senior Judge. However, before my confirmation, Justice Ambursa engaged in trading with the Governor and the Speaker of the House of Assembly and indeed to the public that I was sponsored by the Christians Association of Nigeria to serve the Christendom. He spent a lot of money in forestalling my confirmation at the House, and eventually the house rejected me on the ground of alteration on my certificate, which I believed must have been cooked by Justice Ambursa.
“I have been working for 35 years up to the rank of Permanent Secretary and later became a Judge but Justice Ambursa has never complained about my religion, in fact most of his victims are Muslims rather than Christians. I therefore believe that he is just using religion for his person gain. I was a Muslim before and all my Children are still devoted Muslims. I know what Islam is all about; it is religion of peace, fairness and Justice.
“In its effort to harmonize my relationship with the Governor, the NJC set up a Committee of Reconciliation in May, 2019 to come to Kebbi to talk to the Governor about my confirmation and swearing in. However, before the arrival of the members of the Committee, the Attorney General, Ramatu Gulma who is an ally to Justice Ambursa went to the Birnin Kebbi Airport with Government Vehicles to receive the members.
“At the meeting with the Governor, the Attorney General told the Committee that I am the enemy of the Government because I ordered the detention of family members of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo who were suspected to have committed an offence of fraud of Millions of Naira before Chief Magistrate Court in Birnin Kebbi.
“The Attorney General accused me of failure to assist the vice president’s family who were facing criminal charges which means I am the enemy of his Excellency and his political party. I therefore deserve no assistance.
“Before the end of the meeting, it was agreed that I would be sworn in as substantive Chief Judge but the Governor would recommend the next Chief Judge of Kebbi State, but yet I have not been sworn in and I will be retiring on 5th July, 2019.
“Undoubtedly, the entire crisis was masterminded by Justice M.S Ambursa in order to frustrate my administration as Chief Judge. His aim was to become the Chief Judge before 2019 Elections so that he will play a role in the Elections Petition Tribunals being a loyalist to Senator Adamu Alieru, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi and host of other politicians. It can be recalled that when Alieru was a Minister of the FCT, he allocated a very large plot of land to Justice Ambursa which he later sold,” the petition read in part.
In his reaction, the Secretary to the Kebbi State Government, Babale Yauri, said the refusal of the governor to confirm Mrs Karatu as substantive chief justice has nothing to do with religion.
He said; “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,”
The SSG claimed the January 17, 2019 letter sent to the governor by the State Assembly was not signed and therefore fake.
Mrs Karatu, is due to retire on July 5, 2019.