A senior lawyer in Cross River State, Chief Utum Eteng, has advised Governor Ben Ayade and the outgoing chief judge of Cross River State, Justice Michael Edem, not to impose unqualified person to succeed him because the next most senior judge is a woman, and allegedly not from the state.
In the last three weeks, following succession crisis which has engulfed the state judiciary, there has been scheming and name calling over who succeeds Justice Edem as the state chief judge.
In a letter to incumbent chief judge who is retiring next month, Eteng said, “by the plain construction of Section 271(4), neither you nor Governor Ayade has the discretion to subvert the constitution, as to do otherwise will fail and will introduce bad blood in the state judiciary.”
He advised that the standing rule regarding who succeeds the chief judge, who is the next person in seniority, should be followed, submitting that Justice Akon Ikpeme is the next most senior judge in the state that should become the next chief judge.
“My investigation has revealed that Hon. Justice Akon Ikpeme, in High Court No. 2, Calabar is the next most senior judge after you.
“Sir, without equivocating, by the mandatory provisions of Section 271(4) of the Constitution, Hon. Justice Ikpeme remains the only fit, proper and constitutional person to succeed you as the chief judge of the state. This is the tradition of the Bar, the Bench and the grand norm; there are no two ways about it.
“My Lord, please let the lame and mischievous arguments that, Hon. Justice Ikpeme is not from Cross River State, not find space in your heart. It has failed the test of Section 271(4). Let it be placed on record that Hon. Justice Ikpeme is married to a medical doctor and renowned public health consultant, one Dr. Ikpeme from Odukpani LGA of Cross River State.”