The Unconstitutionality Of Rejection Of Justice Ikpeme As State Chief Judge By C/River Assembly

By Yusufu Shehu Usman

TRIBALISM is a threat to our politics and democracy. It’s retrogressive to the extreme.
If not how can a state Legislature reject the confirmation of a Chief Judge on no other ground than her state of origin?
Her offence is that she got married to a non indegene though a Nigerian from the neighbouring state
Where were the legislators when Justice Ikpeme in her now “offensive” marital status, served the state for decades deligently without any blemish
The worst and most ridiculous side of the sordid and absolutely bizzare story, is the reason the House of Assembly gave for rejecting the confirmation apart from being married to a ‘stranger’
They held that by reason of her marriage to a non indegene, Justice Ikpeme has become a security risk to the state- how absurd!
How can a judge an indegene of the state who served the state for decades suddenly turn to be a security risk to the state?
I think the House of Assembly must tender apologies to Justice Ikpeme for this gross indiscretion. None of them can claim indegenship of the state better than Justice Ikpeme
The fact that she married a man from a state different from her state of origin does not make her less an indegene of the state or less patriotic than the governor or the legislators
The Constitution clearly prohibits discrimination againsr any Nigerian on ground of tribe, religion, sex or state of origin
The members of the House of Assembly have violated their oath of allegiance to uphold and protect the Constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria by passing a resolution in direct conflict with the letters, soul and spirit of the Constitution in their resolution rejecting the confirmation of Justice Ikpeme as the Chief Judge of the state
She served on the Bench for decades and rose to become the most senior judge in the state Judiciary
She acted in the capacity and discharged the duties, functions and powers of the Chief Judge for months before her recommendation by the JSC of the state and subsequently, the National Judicial Council
It is also in line with the established precedent in our judicial system that appointments to the position of the Chief Judge or Head of Court, is based on seniority..
Much as the Constitution confers the power of confirmation of appointment of a Chief Judge on the State House of Assembly, it is a power that should not be exercised capriciously, oppressively or in a manner inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution
The procedure is clear and unambiguous. The State Judicial Service Commission makes a recommendation on the appointment to the National Judicial Council (NJC) The NJC considers the recommendation of the JSC and makes a recommendation to the State Governor who approves the appointment on the resolutionof the state House of Assembly
The state House of Assembly by the law and the Constitution, must exercise it’s powers judiciously and in accordance with the law not the whims, caprices or sentiments of the members
The legislature power is a public trust which must be exercised in the interest of justice
Justice Ikpeme was recommended for the confirmation of appointment as Chief Judge after the probationary period she served in acting capacity
The State JSC and the NJC both found her competent, eminently qualified and fit and proper to occupy the position of the Chief Judge of the State and accordingly recommended her to the Governor for confirmation
The governor is obliged by the Constitution to confirm the appointment after a favourable resolution by the House of Assembly
The report sent to the House of Assembly in respect of Justice Ikpeme span her carrier on the Bench and her performance as the acting Chief Judge
It is an open book for the legislators to read and digest. There was nothing negative In the report and no indictment whatsoever against Justice Ikpeme
That was the report before the House and the facts that were supposed to guide the deliberation and ground the Resolution of the House in the matter
Of course, if Justice Ikpeme had a bad record of service or unsatisfactory performance as acting Chief Judge, the House would be perfectly right to reject the recommendation
But, that is not the case. All that was before the House was a report positive on Justice Ikpeme will no negative, damning or damaging allegations againsr her
The House contemptously jettisoned the substance of the report and chose to go on a wild goose chase to find a reason to reject her nomination
In the process, the House shot it’s self fatally in the foot by raping Chapters Two and Four of the Constitution by rejecting Justice Ikpeme on the grounds of Tribalism and state of origin
It is sad and indeed very distressing that the legislature which subscribed to an oath to protect, defend and uphold the Constitution, and by reason of thaf oath, was entrusted with the powers to make laws, will violate the Constitution in such a crass and flagrant manner,
The House of Assembly has neither the right nor the power to act contrary to the Constitution and where they do so, the court has the duty to declare their resolutions or decisions null and void and of no legal consequences whatsoever.
The next question to ask is, who recommended the Judge now sworn in to act as the Chief Judge of the state after the purported rejection of Justice Ikpeme by the House of Assembly?
The law necessarily requires that to act in the office of the Chief Judge, a person must be recommended by the State Judicial Service Commission and approved by the National Judicial Council
Did his nomination pass through these constitutional processes?
This is not a novel situation as far as the appointment of Chief Judges of states is concerned. There are precedents well established In the past to guide the governors and the Houses of Assemblies
It happened in Plateau, Imo and Rivers States to mention but a few.
The House of Assembly has done the worst injustice to Justice Ikpeme but in law, there is no wrong without a redress
I expect public spirited individuals from the state and Civil Society organizations with interest in protecting our constitution and fledging democracy to institute an action in the court to challenge the legality of The Resolution of the House of Assembly rejecting the confirmation of Justice Ikpeme’s appointment on the discriminatory grounds of Tribalism and state of origin which is clearly unconstitutional

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