The Ugly Normalcy Of Ethnic Bias In Nigeria

By Senator Anietie Okon


It is indeed undebatable that women have come of age in the legal profession, but in Nigeria we have female justices who have been superseded by their juniors in appointment to key positions in the Judiciary, one of which is Justice Akon Ikpeme, who has been wrongfully denied the position of Chief Judge by the Cross River State House of Assembly.


Justice Akon Ikepeme served as the acting Chief Judge of Cross River State for three months, and is the most senior in hierarchy of judges in the Cross River State Judiciary and on this background, amongst others, was supposed to be confirmed by the State Assembly as the Chief Judge of the State.


Seniority in the bar determines who takes on the office of Chief Justice but that has been breached as a junior colleague of Justice Ikpeme has been conferred with the responsibilities of Chief Judge, undercurrents demonstrated in the appallingly shambolic exhibition of ethnic jingoism by the Cross River State Assembly led to her disqualification and touting as a security threat by the State Assembly because of her family ties with neighbouring Akwa Ibom State.


This petty intrigue is more than a deprivation of a career opportunity, but denies Justice Ikpeme of an opportunity to educate and bequeath the diktats of the legal profession to the young bright and aspiring lawyers of our time, while serving her fatherland and upholding the ethos and values of an incorruptible judicial system. It is unequivocal to state that Justice Ikpeme who has given the state, her productive years with an impeccable record has been robbed of her legacy.


In the words of late Dr Chuba Okadigbo, “If you are emotionally attached to your tribe, religion or political leaning to the point that truth and justice become secondary considerations, your education is useless, your exposure is useless, if you cannot reason beyond your petty sentiments, you are a liability to mankind”.


The assumption that Justice Ikpeme who is from Cross River State maternally, by birth, and marriage and has given her years of applaudable service as a judicial officer, director of public prosecution and a senior judge to Cross River State and Nigeria at large, is not an indigene of the state is chauvinism and bias against a woman who has conducted her dealings, and proven herself by judicial precedents as worthy and qualified for the apex office of the state’s Judiciary.

The Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Eteng Williams, is married to a native of Uyo, in Akwa Ibom State, the wife of the Deputy Speaker is a daughter of Itu. House members, Chris Ogar and Efa Esua are married to women from Oruk Anam and Etinan respectively. Have these members in their respective positions or their spouses been cited as security threats to the state? Do their wives and children know that they are not indigenes of Cross River State and as such should not take part in any serious matters concerning the state?


On what premise has Justice Akon Ikpeme presented herself as a security threat to a state with numerous citizens whose ancestry is linked to Akwa Ibom state?


Are the spouses and children of these House of Assembly members expected to live in fear and restriction in Cross River State because standing with the description attached to Justice Ikpeme, they are not from Cross River State?


Should the spouses and children of theses legislators be taught to be timid and not aspire to greatness wherever they find themselves?

RELATED: C’River Rejects Justice Ikpeme As Chief Judge Swears in Eneji

Must they live in reclusion even when they are qualified to take key positions because they are not indigenous people of the state?


Section 42 of the Nigerian Constitution provides that no one shall be discriminated against on the basis of origin, sex or race.


This intolerable bigotry and marginalization is unconstitutional, and speaks nothing of the unity we proclaim, nor the peace and progress we seek, but a sad indication that with crude acts of this nature in acceptance and existence, Nigeria is nothing but a geographical entity.


Injustice, anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Nigerians need to outstrip the mentality of favouritism, sectionalism, and adopt the ideals of ability, capacity, dedication and objectivity.

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