Cross River State Governor, Professor Ben Ayade has sworn in two new High Court judges into the state’s judiciary with a charge on them to avoid being used against the interest of the state.
The new High Court judges, Honourable Justice Amajama Jacob Eneji and Honourable Justice Edem Nyong Okokon were among the judges recently confirmed by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Before his elevation to the Bench, Justice Eneji described as fearless, diligent and thorough by colleagues at the Cross River Chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), was a Senior State Counsel.
He is credited with winning intricate cases for the state.
Justice Okokon on the other hand was until his elevation, a Registrar in the state judiciary.
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Speaking at the event held on Monday at the Executive Chamber of the Governor’s Office, Calabar and attended by the Deputy Governor, Ivara Esu, Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Eteng-Jones Williams, state’s Chief Judge, Justice Ikpeme Akon, former Chief Judge of the state, Justice Michael Edem and other government functionaries, Ayade harped on the need for judges to be above board in the temple of justice.
He expressed optimism that the two new Judges “will not be sources of pain to our state.”
“I am happy that I am signing two members of our judiciary into the Bench today,” the governor said.
“However, my prayer is that the people we are swearing in today will not turn out to be sources of pain to the state. I am a Christian and I will always say my mind. With the support of the Chief Judge, Justice Akon Ikpeme, we are lucky to have a dogged fighter like her, we have fought so hard to get many of our judicial officers on the Bench, and we have attracted many judges to the Cross River judiciary but some of them have become sources of pain to the state.
“Some of the judges are now sources of garnishee orders on the state’s accounts, including salary accounts. You cannot garnishee a salary account, the law is clear on that.”
Admonishing further, the governor regretted that “Some of the judges have become sources of protection to people that have refused to pay tax in the state.
“A case that hurts me till tomorrow is the case of a multinational company that was to pay a tenement rate to the state but refused to pay because a judgement of our state High Court said it should not. How does our state generate revenue if our courts keep stopping people and corporate bodies from paying taxes?”
Continuing, the governor queried: “How can you have a transaction of 20 years ago and get a garnishee on a state account in 2023? It is unacceptable.”
Affirming his belief in the sanctity of the judiciary, Ayade who is himself a Lawyer maintained that “we have not asked you to compromise the law against any citizen or cooperate body, but when a law is tilted against a state, then l begin to wonder if the law is the same law that l signed.
“For example in Cross River, for security reasons, we have banned scrap metal collection and transactions just like many other states, but some people went to our state High Court and got a judgement against the ban. It is unbelievable. I just hope that our consciences will come to play this time.”
Justice Eneji in his response pledged to be guided by the tenets of the law and constitution in the discharge of his duties ‘as an officer in the temple of the justice,’ adding that “As judges, we have sworn to be above board and hold ourselves to high standards. We must be and appear to be fair and impartial.”