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Akwa Ibom Chief Judge, Obot Accused Of Nepotism, Disregarding Public Service Rules In Appointment Of Magistrates, Judicial Workers

Akwa Ibom Chief Judge, Obot Accused Of Nepotism, Disregarding Public Service Rules In Appointment Of Magistrates, Judicial Workers
January 25, 2023

The CJ was also accused of launching a campaign against perceived staff members close to her predecessor.

The Chief Justice of Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Obot has allegedly disregarded public service rules while appointing State Magistrates.

SaharaReporters gathered that the recent appointment of 10 Magistrates into the Akwa Ibom State Judiciary by Justice Ekaette Obot in December 2022 was done in clear contravention of the state law regulating the public service.

The new magistrates are Chinonyelum Diamond Akpanika from Ibeno Local Government Area; Peace Godwin Edemekong, Okobo; Roseline Joe Eshett, Ibeno; Amanda Michael Effiom, Ibesikpo Asutan; Aniefiok Fabian Obot, ONNA; Imaobong Ifiok Umana, Etinan; Ifiok Sunday Ubom, Oruk Anam; Immaculata Victor Idiong, Obot Akara; UbongAbasi Fidelis Onwuoduokit, Urueffong Oruko; and Etinyene Solomon Etuk, Nsit Ubium.

The CJ was also accused of launching a campaign against perceived staff members close to her predecessor, using punitive deployment as a tool and ensuring competent staff members of the judiciary were deployed to out-station while bringing in her loyalists, who most times are not competent to carry on the duties required by their new offices.

These allegations are contained in a comprehensive report made available to SaharaReporters by inside sources in the state judicial arm.

The report reads: “The recent appointment of 10 Magistrates into the Akwa Ibom State Judiciary by the State Chief Judge in December 2022 further exposed the level of nepotism perpetuated in the state judiciary.

“Unlike in the past when information of such event was widely circulated, the ceremony which took place at the Chief Judge’s Chambers, Judiciary Headquarters, Uyo, was shrouded in secrecy as only Justice Obot, the Chief Registrar and the new appointees were in the know of the ceremony. The information was hidden from other judges, magistrates, members of the NBA and judiciary staff.

“The reason for the secrecy of the inauguration was brought to the fore when their designations were made public as one of the new appointees was given Chief Magistrate Grade II, six were made Senior Magistrate I, two others were made Magistrate Grade I, while only one of the new appointees was placed on the proper Magistrate Grade II, which is the appropriate entry level for the magistracy cadre.

“According to Public Service Rules, the entry point into service is level 8, 9 or 10 depending on the qualifications possessed by the applicant. An applicant (Lawyer) into the Ministry of Justice as State Counsel starts at level 10 because of the Bachelor of Laws degree obtained from the Nigerian Law School.

“The entry point into the Magistracy is Magistrate Grade II, however between Justice Obot and her predecessor, Justice Godwin Abraham (Rtd.), the appointment of Chief Magistrates and Senior Magistrates Grade I have become the order of the day, without an iota of care for public service rules, justice, equity and good conscience.

“To some watchers of happenings in the judiciary, the brazen abuse of power by the Chief Judge must have come as a shock, however keen followers of her administration understand how ruthless she is in the use and abuse of power and have faulted her appointment of her son and other young lawyers lacking experience on the bench above highly senior experienced serving magistrates on the bench.

“According to investigation, there are about three senior lawyers appointed in 2020 into Magistrate Grade II and have not been promoted, while all those who were appointed in 2017, seven years ago are still Magistrate Grade I and have spent four years on the rank with promotion and some serving magistrates are in Senior Magistrate Grade II, with their years of call and experience on the bench.

“These magistrates were called to the Nigerian Bar severally between 2010 and 2012, so it is highly condemnable that in her desperation to position her son to be appointed a judge upon her retirement, the Chief Judge on a bazaar without a care for the public service rules by appointing young lawyers who were called to the Nigerian Bar in 2015 and even 2018 to be 2 level seniors to those who are their seniors by call and service on the bench.

“Shockingly is the fact that the Chief Judge who was a victim of what she is handing out to the staff of the judiciary when her predecessor in office worked against her emergence as Chief Judge has not learnt from her experience and it is believed that with her ilk heading the third arm of government, the much-touted financial autonomy will be an albatross for Judicial system.

“A lawyer who wrote the test for eligible lawyers aspiring to be magistrates alleged that from the beginning, the test was skewed to favour the Chief Judge's son, Aniefiok Fabian Obot and the selected few who were eventually appointed. She stressed that even in the multipurpose hall where they wrote the test, the Chief Judge's son was given the latitude to do what he liked and even given extra time to continue writing, while others were forced to stop. She further claimed that when the list of thirteen (13) shortlisted applicants for interview was published, the names of some lawyers who did not write the test appeared and they were the people who were eventually employed.”

There have multiple complaints of favouritism, nepotism, rascality, and other related issues in Akwa Ibom State Judiciary since the appointment of Justice Ekaette Obot as the State Chief Judge.

“However, very little or nothing could be made from these complaints because there were mostly in hushed tones. It was even more difficult to wrap one's head around the negative stories from the judiciary because not too long ago, Justice Obot's emergence as Chief Judge was widely celebrated as the heralding of a new era in that arm of government.

“According to facts from the judiciary, Justice Ekaette Obot's coming was seen as a breath of fresh air following the draconian administration of her predecessor in office, Rtd. Justice Godwin Abraham, who ran the judiciary as a personal fiefdom, alienating staff of the judiciary, the Bar and even his brother judges from the administration of the judiciary,” the document read.

Sources in the judiciary also alleged that the CJ has been intimidating staff members perceived to be close to her predecessor by employing punitive deployment as a tool and ensuring competent workers are deployed to the out-station.

On the other hand, she allegedly brings in her loyalists, who are said to be sometimes incompetent to carry out the duties required of their new offices.

“Precisely, she forcefully transferred Justice Charles Ikpe who would have been the administrative judge from Uyo Judicial Division to Ikot Ekpene and ensured that the Ikot Ekpene High Court complex is denied every facility that will make the administration of justice comfortable for the judges and litigants,” a source said.

It was also claimed that Mrs Obot abused her power to the point where any employee who challenged her was punished with a transfer outside of Uyo.

The report continued, “She has usurped duties of the Chief Registrar and handed same to her acolytes. For instance, the Chief Registrar who is the chief operating officer of the Judiciary is in the dark on how power is supplied to courts in the state, because, one of the CJ's acolytes by name Katele Ajah is in charge of supplies of diesel to courts.

“Some judges are said to have been reprimanded by Justice Obot for asking Ajah to do the proper thing to aid the administration of justice in the state. Deputy Registrars who are administrative heads in jurisdictions outside the headquarters are rendered redundant as all their duties are being carried out by Ajah with the support of the Chief Judge.

Reacting to this, a senior lawyer based in the state who spoke on condition of anonymity expressed shock that the Chief Judge could act in such a way without regard for due process, equity, and justice, adding that her actions in office will bring the judiciary to an abysmal low and make it a laughing stock.

The lawyer urged the state governor to intervene and withhold his approval for the appointees to keep intact the morale of the serving magistrates and for the sake of the sanctity of the Judiciary.