Lawyers under the aegis of Concerned Lawyers in Cross River on Monday embarked on a peaceful protest to demand the swearing-in of a substantive Chief Judge in the state.
The Lawyers displayed placards with different inscriptions such as: Cross River deserves a Chief Judge, No Chief Judge no access to justice, Cross River Judiciary in want of leadership, among others.
The lawyers called on the executive and legislative arms of governments in Cross River to immediately appoint a substantive Chief Judge as recommended by the National Judicial Council.
They also called on the state Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, to provide judges and magistrates with official vehicles as he did to members of the state executive and legislature.
Spokesperson for the lawyers, Enome Amatey, said the appointment of a CJ had never been so politicised in the state as it was currently.
Amatey said: “The admirable tradition of succession in the Judiciary should be respected and upheld.
“The uncertainty created by the unavailability of a substantive Chief Judge in the state is unhealthy.
“One wonders what will happen after the current acting Chief Judge’s tenure.
“Another acting Chief Judge?
“This certainly is not the intendment of the letters of the constitution.
“We call on the executive and legislature in the interest of the state to do the right thing and fill the vacancy in a substantive capacity as doing so will be absolutely fair.”
Amatey lamented that over 100 cases, including fundamental human rights applications filed by citizens, could neither be assigned nor heard.
Similarly, another NBA member, Effiom Ayi, who said the state had been without a substantive CJ for 11 months, called on the state government to restore the names of the 40 magistrates in the Ministry of Justice that were illegally removed and their owed salaries paid them.
Ayi, however, urged the state government to award contracts for the building of more courts, renovation and furnishing of all existing state courts in Cross River.
Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria, Eno Edet said the state judiciary had been without an administrative head for more than 300 days, adding that the development was not healthy for the state.
According to Edet, the Judiciary is an arm of government and not a department, “hence the judiciary should not be without a head.
“The NJC has recommended Justice Akon Ikpeme to be sworn in by the state government as the substantive CJ of the state.
“As at now, there is no just cause why they rejected swearing her in.
“Our protest is to draw government’s attention that the right thing must be done in line with the constitution.”