The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has reacted to the swearing-in of Justice Akon Ikpeme as the Chief Judge of Cross River State.
Mrs Ikpeme was sworn-in by Governor Ben Ayade on Monday, 10 months after she was rejected by the Cross River House of Assembly.
The Chairman of the NBA, Calabar Branch, Paul Ebiala, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said Mrs Ikpeme’s confirmation and swearing-in was divine.
Mr Ebiala, who commended Mr Ayade for the swearing-in, said lawyers in the state were all happy for it.
“The legal family in the state is happy for the confirmation of an excellent lady as the chief judge of the state.
“Today is a blessed day; particularly the day the NBA, Calabar Branch, has been waiting for because we have clamoured for this over a period of one year.
“We have not just a substantive chief judge but the particular person the law says is the right person and today that person has been sworn-in.
“We have high expectations, she has to pull the judiciary in the state together and also cooperate with the other two arms of government. We are confident that she is going to do a good job,” Mr Ebiala said.
A prominent lawyer in the state, Mba Ukweni, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said he was happy with the swearing-in of Mrs Ikpeme and that he hoped to see lawyers in the state work with the new chief judge to move the state and its judiciary forward.
“It is sad that we found ourselves in this kind of situation. For us not to find ourselves in this kind of situation again, we have to follow the rules and the constitutional provisions.
“By virtue of my position as a SAN, I have a responsibility to the legal profession, the country and our constitution, we are like guardians of the threshold, we must ensure that things are done properly,” Mr Ukweni said.
NAN reported that Mrs Ikpeme, born on October 21, 1959, was first appointed acting chief judge of Cross River State on December 3, 2019 to March 2, 2020.
Cross River’s House of Assembly rejected her nomination as a substantive chief judge, giving room for the swearing-in of Justice Maurice Eneji and Justice Eyo Effiom-Ita who served as acting chief judges between March 2020 and January 2021.
The state lawmakers, in rejecting Mrs Ikpeme, had said she was from the neighbouring state of Akwa Ibom by birth, even though she is married to a man who is from Cross River State.
The House again, at its sitting on June 2, 2020, rejected Mrs Ikpeme’s nomination after the National Judicial Council re-nominated her for a second time.
She was eventually confirmed by the Assembly on January 28.