By Ayo Kehinde
Governor Ben Ayade’s nomination letter and Justice Akon Ikpeme
After allowing a vacuum to linger for 424 days in the state’s legal authority, Governor Ben Ayade heeded reason on January 20, 2021 and allowed Justice Akon Ikpeme be sworn-in as Chief Judge of Cross River state High Court. Her nomination for appointment was mired in controversial circumstances bordering on politics for almost a year ago.
The State’s substantive Chief Judge CJ, Justice Michael Edem retired in November 2019 but for reasons that were not to clear then, Ikpeme, who, by virtue of seniority and ranking, was supposed to ascend the position was denied. It later became clear that the governor and the ruling political elite in the state feared she held partisan views that made her loyalty suspect. The intervention of the Nigeria Judicial Council, NJC, only succeeded in arriving at a compromise that allowed Justice Effiom Eyo-Ita to step in as acting Chief Judge.
When Eyo-Ita’s tenure elapsed on January 19, 2021 the NJC is said to have insisted on Ikpeme. But not until she had to declare her loyalty reportedly at a meeting convened for the purpose, with the governor, did the coast clear for her and the governor had to cause the Secretary to the State Government, Barr Tina Banku Agbor to forward a letter of her nomination to the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Eteng Jones, requesting her confirmation.
In a unanimous voice vote, all the lawmakers voted aye to confirm her on Thursday.