By Ebriku John Friday
Cross River State Governor, Sir Ben Ayade in the spirit of equity Tuesday at the state executive council chamber, swore in Justice Maurice Eneji as the acting Chief Judge of the state.
Justice Eneji’s swearing-in has broken the jinx as he made history as the first judge to assume that position from the Northern Senatorial District since the creation of the state. He is from Bekwarra Local Government.
This follows the non-confirmation, Monday, of Justice Akon Ikpeme as the substantive Chief Judge of the state by the Cross River State House of Assembly.
Ayade said the swearing in of Justice Eneji was imperative as law and nature abhor a vacuum.
He congratulated the acting Chief Judge on his appointment and urged him to dispense justice without fear or favour.
“I urge you to dispense justice without fear or favour, you have to have fairness of mind. The law is blind and should not be sensitive to religion, ethnicity, colour or any other affiliation.
“We ask that the leadership of the judiciary under your watch should be very exemplary and should be such that every other state would like to emulate. We know your background and believe that you are competent and capable and worthy of this office,” he said.
The governor used the occasion to clear any doubts as to how receptive the state is to everyone, irrespective of where they come from.
“Cross River State is known for fairness, equity and what is fair. We are opposed to anything that is repugnant to natural justice. Our people are not known for bias and prejudices.”
He said as a governor, he has taken several decisions in the past to ensure equity and fairness in the distribution of government positions so as to have a balanced representation across the senatorial zones in the state.
The governor gave instances where he insisted the position of the Provost of College of Education, Akamkpa be given to a southern candidate even when a candidate from the North had the highest scores.
He said he similarly overlooked a northerner in the choice of Head of Service when he assumed office, preferring a southerner instead just to avoid having a lop-sided government with key officials coming from a particular zone.
According to the Ayade, “Currently, I have over 20 non-Cross Riverians holding various appointments in my government. Some of the appointees are from far flung states like Kano, Imo, Edo to as close as Akwa Ibom state, which has a commissioner in my cabinet. I am not not known or given to sectionalism or tribalism. I believe in equity.”
In a vote of thanks, the new acting Chief Judge pledged to enthrone a number of reforms that will aide justice delivery in the state.
He also promised to be a listening acting Chief Judge.
According to him, “My appointment came to me as a beautiful surprise. I am coming to the office with a mind to listen. The sacred duty of a judge is to listen before adjudicating. I will listen at all times to ensure that justice is served at all times.”
Justice Eneji also promised that the judiciary under him will be tough on criminals.