Sunday, 8 March 2020

Justice Ikpeme: C'River women weep publicly, set to storm Ayade's House

Fifteen women groups comprising women from across the state have risen up in solidarity and support for Justice Akon Ikpeme who was recently denied confirmation as substantive Chief Judge of the state by the Cross River State House of Assembly on the grounds that she's a security threat to the state since she originally is from Akwa Ibom State but only married to a Cross Riverian. 

The women who spoke passionately against the embarrassing and pathetic situation were moved to tears as some could not hold their emotions over what they described as "The pathetic condition of the African Woman". A situation where she (The African Woman) no longer has no place in her father's house due to marriage and also not welcome in her husband's village because she is not from there is very pathetic. 

The fifteen women groups are Mbono Iban Isong Efik Association, Gender and Development Action, Eniong Women Association, Women4Women Community, FIDA-CRS, Efik Leadership Foundation, and Henshaw Town Women Association.

Others are Women in CAN, NigeriaYouth AIDS Program, Nka Iban Uko, CCAPI, Neighborhood Care Well Foundation, The Women Voice and Leadership project Nigeria, Centre for Training and Development Activities.

The groups in their protest letter signed by Distinguished Senator Princess Florence Ita-Giwa and read by Prof Francisca Bassey lamented what women were passing through in the state.

"We the women of Mbono Iban Isong Efik Association collectively and individually are appalled at the resolution of the Cross River State House of Assembly on 2nd March 2020, which resulted in the rejection of Justice Akon Ikpeme as the substantive Chief Justice of Cross River State (CRS) on erroneous grounds that she is from Akwa Ibom State and therefore constitutes a security risk to Cross River State.

"As women from different parts of Nigeria but bound together by our love for Calabar and many years of co-existence, the Mbono Iban, for all intents and purposes see and know that Akon Ikpeme is a woman of Odukpani LGA origin in Cross River State.

"We reject all spurious attempts to dissociate her from her husband of over 30 years and her 4 children who are fully part and parcel of the Efik ethnicity. In her own right, Akon Ikpeme is fully Efik as she was born in Calabar and had her early livelihood experiences here in the state.

"During the last 35 years or more, she has habitually resided and worked in the public service and paid her tax here in Cross River State, where she has not been found wanting. She later rose to become a judge and served in that capacity flawlessly.

"This fact was confirmed both by the Governor (Prof Ben Ayade) during her swearing-in as the Acting Chief Judge and was contained in the report of the Judicial Committee of the House of Assembly and further attested to by many members of the House of Assembly who spoke of her impeccable record and character on the floor of House.

"We are therefore unable to understand what the logic behind her disqualification or rejection is about. Although she was denied confirmation by a voice vote, the reasons had nothing to do with her competence and service to Cross River State. No specific instances of her being a security risk were established and therefore, the resort to her state of origin was vile and hateful.

"The protracted nature of this debacle suggests a premeditated arrangement which to our surprise has been followed through. From the very beginning in 2019, when the question of succession was announced, her issue has been at odds with certain interests in the State," the group stated.

However, the group said that they expected that since the Governor had graciously sworn her in as Acting Chief Judge on the recommendation of the National Judicial Commission, over and above her colleague (Justice Maurice Eneji) the matter had been settled both in law and process.

"We, therefore, find it strange that she is being denied mainly on the ground that she is a woman and one who is married to a person from Cross River State. Our challenge is that women continue to be displaced just because they are women.

"In their fatherland, they have no place because they are married out and in their husband's land, they are strangers or refugees. Mbono Iban Isong Efik totally refuses to believe that women are now seen as Internally Displaced Persons or Refugees and calls for a total overhaul of this situation.

"It particularly wishes to draw attention to the fact that what happened yesterday at the House of Assembly in Cross River State was an infringement of the fundamental rights of Justice Akon Ikpeme and a matter of grave constitutional implication," they noted.

The group said that all women were affected because discrimination to one woman is discrimination to all women.

"We note that the Governor has sworn in a man in place of Justice Akon Ikpeme and would like to add that since this is in an acting capacity, there is room for the Cross River State House of Assembly to reverse itself on this matter.

"The right thing should be done in the light of the provisions of Sec 42(1) a&b of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which states that "a citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person.

"We believe that our counsel as mothers of Efikland and Cross River State women of concern will be heeded to as we work through what has become a very tense moment in the history of our State.

"Never in our recent past have the women felt so violated and discriminated against and we believe the least that can be done is to right this wrong. Therefore, we urge the members of the State House of Assembly to revisit this aberration and allow justice to prevail to avoid setting a very bad and unacceptable precedence for our dear State-Cross River State," they stated