Mr. Jibrin Samuel Okutepa, a prominent Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has described as “impunity” the refusal by the Governor of Cross River State to appoint new Chief Judge despite the fact that the office has been vacant for the past 50 days
Okutepa, in a statement made available to TheNigeriaLawyer (TNL), lamented that those elected to defend the Nigerian constitution have ended up desecration the same constitution without remorse.
He also expressed dismay over the fate of Justice Akon whom the governor refused to appoint as Chief Judge on the basis that she is not from the state
“The level of impunity in this country is amazing. Those we elected to protect and defend the constitution of Nigeria are daily desecrating the constitution and they sleep as if nothing happens.
“Cross Rivers State has been without Chief Judge for the past 50 days or so. The Judge who ought to be appointed the Chief Judge has been denied the right to be so appointed not because she is not qualified or that she lacks capacity to discharge the duties of the office but because she is not an indigene of Cross Rivers State even though she is married to a Cross Riverian.
“So Akon J is being discriminated on the basis of where she was born and the state she hails from. Note that Cross Rivers State and Akwa Ibom State where Akon J hails from used to be one state.” Okutepa said
Therefore, he said the Eastern Bar Forum (EBF) has done the right thing by organizing a protest as the legal profession ought not to keep quiet in situations of injustice
He said, “I just read on social media that the Eastern Bar Forum has called for protest. The statement reads in parts:
” ‘You will recall that the issue of the office of the Chief Judge of Cross Rivers State has been a thorny issue till date to the extent that it is now almost fifty (50) days running that the state has being without a Chief Judge or an acting Chief Judge.
‘We cannot continue to be silent in the face of absolute tyranny, indiscipline and affront on the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended’
“I think the EBF is right. The legal profession cannot fold it’s arm and watch the seat of justice being rubbished and desecrated by politicians.”
Okutepa called on lawyers to join the protestest and appealed to the Attorney-General of Cross River State to make his position public.
He said the refusal by Cross River State governor to appoint Justice Akon as Chief Judge is a dangerous precedent that may be copied by some states.
He accordingly urged the National Judicial Council (NJC) to reject any name they may receive from the governor outside Justice Akon
He said, “All well meaning legal Practitioners must rise up and protest this constitutional sacrilege.
The Attorney General of Cross Rivers State must do something and tell his appointor that his failure to do what he needs to do is a breach of Nigerian constitution.
“To send a strong signal, the Attorney General must make public his stand on the matter.The leadership of the legal profession must wake up from slumbers.
“The case of CJ of Cross Rivers State is a test case. If nothing is done more dangerous dimension will follow in other states. FIDA must wake up. I fully support the call for protest.
“NJC must not approve any appointment for the office of CJ Cross Rivers State outside of Akon J. Judges of Cross Rivers State must stand in defence of their collective interests and the office of CJ of the state.”
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