There was a mild drama yesterday at the Cross River State House of Assembly as the Speaker; Hon. Jonas Williams Eteng refused to allow a letter sent by Governor Ben Ayade to the House to be read, saying the matter was not listed.
The governor was said to have sent a letter to the House for the confirmation of Justice Akon Ikpeme, as the substantive Chief Judge of the state, and the matter was brought to the attention of the House by Hon. Ekpo Ekpo Bassey, representing Bakassi Constituency and Hon. Efa Esua, representing Calabar Municipality in the House.
According to the lawmakers, the tenure of Justice Ikpeme will expire on March 2, and the state would run without a Chief Judge, if Justice Ikpeme was not confirmed.
However, no sooner had the duo brought the matter to the floor of the House that the Speaker refused to allow any debate on it, saying the matter was not listed as urgent matter for the day.
The Speaker said: “We cannot take a matter that is not before us. Please agitation or deliberation on this matter is closed for now. We are all from Cross River State and we were elected by the people, but you cannot be more worried on this matter than we all here. Let us be orderly and follow the rule of the House.”
But, the Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Hon. Efa Esua said the House had always refused to allow the matter be listed each time such request was made, and accused the Speaker of being compromised and politicising the matter.
Esua said that by consistently refusing to allow deliberation on the matter in order not to facilitate the confirmation of the Acting Chief Judge, there was a tendency for such decision to generate constitutional crisis and anarchy in the state.
He noted: “The tenure of the Acting CJ will expire in a matter of days. The NJC had approved the most Senior Judge in the state to be appointed, but the Governor and the Speaker have been foot dragging because they seem to favour a Justice, who is alleged to come from their senatorial district as the Chief Judge of the state. The consequences of this refusal will be that without a substantial chief judge, cases will not be assigned and attended to on time and crimes will increase in the state.
“Local government election is coming up next month and without a substantive chief judge, the process will not be smooth. I believe so much that the Speaker cannot continue to block the confirmation if he had not been compromised thereby making the legislature to be a lame duck”.