June 13, 2024

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My Life Was Threatened For Standing By Akon Ikpeme-Edem

5 min read

David Edem is one of the legal practitioners who stood firmly for Justice Akon Ikpeme to be confirmed as the Chief Judge of Cross River State. He said he got many threats including a kidnapping threat for his decision. In all, he is most excited that justice has finally prevailed. He is optimistic that Justice Ikpeme has the capacity to deliver. He spoke with CHIEMEKA ADINDU.
Excerpts:

What motivated you to stand by Justice Akon Ikpeme?
Well, the motivation was simply adherence to rule of law. At least the time we were all called to bar, we all swore to defend, protect the sanctity of the constitution and as a lawyer, standing by to watch the law being bridged by those in authority is to be on the side of impunity. To me, it was uncalled for and highly unprofessional. Hence, I decided to stick to the side of rule of law which the constitution represents.

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Does it mean that those in authority acted ignorantly?
I wouldn’t say they acted ignorantly. It’s all part of the manipulations that politicians are known for; they will try their hands in whatever they think would suit their selfish interest. So, I will not say that it was done out of ignorance.

Do you think the NJC would have reconsidered their recommendation if the governor and house of assembly had stood their ground to confirm Justice Maurice Eneji?
Well, as far as I’m concerned, the governor, the legislature have done their part by trying to frustrate the process of the most senior judge as the chief judge but I thank God for the institution of the NJC. But not for the insistence of the NJC on their recommendation who happens to be honourable justice Akon Ikpeme, if we had given in to the political manipulations by those in the corridors of power, then I don’t think what we’ve seen today would have been.

What do you think could have caused the government of Cross River to reject her name even when the NJC must have cleared and recommended her?
What I can summarize about that is that it’s borne out of political selfishness; just political selfishness.

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Now that she has been confirmed, what does that mean to you and others who stood their ground on this?
Well, it is a victory for the rule of law and it shows that the law can stand the test of time and the law is not given into any human manipulation as it were.

What does that mean to the people at large?
It means that no matter how bad the country is we still have hope in our institutions.

What do you think should be done to ensure that future occurrences of similar events don’t repeat itself?
The only way to cure all the manipulations we have witnessed in the last one year, two months, is just a constitutional amendment that the issue of the appointment of a chief judge of a state would either be left with the National Judicial Council not involving the executive or the governor. Besides the judiciary being autonomous, there is need for a constitutional amendment especially as it has to do with the emergence of the chief judge of a state; I think that should be left exclusively with the National Judicial Council without involving the state house of assembly. Because leaving that will give way to what we witnessed, which is political manipulation.

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What is your advice to her as she prepares to be sworn in as the chief judge of the state? And what are your expectations and least expectations from her?
All I expect from her is to stand on the side of rule of law. She is a product of rule of law and she must make sure that rule of law reigns supreme.

Do you have confidence in her that she will maintain the rule of law?
Implicit confidence, she’s a woman of substance and she has the character to ensure that the rule of law is not done but seen to be done in the state.

Could you recall the things that transpired, the things you were told at the time you chose to stand by her?
It wasn’t an easy battle. I’ve been on this advocacy for more than a year and in the cause of this advocacy, I’ve faced several threats. I have been blackmailed, a lot of things have come my way, including the threat of kidnap but I said, I’m not a politician, neither am I fighting the government. All I’m saying is that the legal profession is my farm; let the right things be done in accordance with the law. Unfortunately, most people tagged me a rebel. But indeed I was a rebel with the cause and I take it because when we compromise the rule of law, then we are finished.

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For over one week now she was confirmed nothing has been said about her swearing in. Does it take this long for that to be done according to the constitution?
Well, there is no constitutional time bound between confirmation and swearing in so we are hopeful that she will be sworn in. It took us about ten months or so for her to be confirmed, so if it’s about a few days before her swearing in we need not to worry, we should fret not so definitely she would be sworn in. We are confident.

There is this report that the name of a former attorney general of the state, Joe Abang has been removed from the roll of legal practitioners. How valid is it? And what is the implication?
Well from a publication on our NBA portal it is factual. It is correct that his name has been struck out of the roll of legal practitioners in Nigeria. It could have been as a result of infraction, one unprofessional conduct or the other that caused him to be petitioned to the disciplinary committee. I don’t have details so I cannot really say much on that. It was done by the legal practitioners’ disciplinary committee.

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