Amidst controversy over who becomes the Chief Judge of Cross River State, the Governor Prof Ben Ayade has sworn in Justice Maurice Eneji as the acting Chief Judge.

Justice Akon Bassey Ikpeme was rejected by the State House of Assembly because she is not an indigene of the state and also over allegations that she was Governor Ayade’s candidate but supported Justice Eneji.

Justice Ikpeme was appointed as acting Chief Judge by National Judicial Commission (NJC)

Her name was sent to the Governor for recommendation and also to the House for confirmation but the House rejected her.

However, Governor Ben Ayade on Tuesday at the state executive council chamber swore in Justice Maurice Eneji as the acting Chief Judge of the state.

In a press release signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Christian Ita and made available to DAILY POST, the appointed followed the non-confirmation of Justice Ikpeme,

“This follows the non-confirmation, Monday, of Justice Akon Ikpeme as the substantive Chief Judge of the state by the Cross River State House of Assembly.

“Ayade said the swearing-in of Justice Eneji was imperative as law and nature abhors a vacuum. He congratulated the acting Chief Judge on his appointment and urged him to dispense justice without fear or favour.

“I urge you to dispense justice without fear or favour; you have to have fairness of mind. The law is blind and should not be sensitive to religion, ethnicity, colour or any other affiliation.

“We ask that the leadership of the judiciary under your watch be very exemplary, such that every other state would like to emulate. We know your background and believe that you are competent and capable and worthy of this office,” he said.

The governor used the occasion to clear any doubts as to how receptive the state is to everyone, irrespective of where they come from.

“Cross River State is known for fairness, equity and what is fair. We are opposed to anything that is repugnant to natural justice. Our people are not known for bias and prejudices.”

He said as a governor, he has taken several decisions in the past to ensure equity and fairness in the distribution of government positions so as to have a balanced representation across the senatorial zones in the state.

The governor gave instances where he insisted the position of the Provost of the College of Education, Akamkpa be given to a southern candidate even when a candidate from the North had the highest scores.

He said he similarly overlooked a northerner in the choice of Head of Service when he assumed office, preferring a southerner instead just to avoid having a lop-sided government with key officials coming from a particular zone.

According to Ayade, “Currently, I have over 20 non-Cross Riverians holding various appointments in my government. Some of the appointees are from far flung states like Kano, Imo, Edo to as close as Akwa Ibom state, which has a commissioner in my cabinet. I am not known or given to sectionalism or tribalism. I believe in equity.”

In a vote of thanks, the new acting Chief Judge pledged to enthrone a number of reforms that will aide justice delivery in the state. He also promised to be a listening acting Chief Judge.

According to him, “My appointment came to me as a beautiful surprise. I am coming to the office with a mind to listen. The sacred duty of a judge is to listen before adjudicating. I will listen at all times to ensure that justice is served at all times.”