By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent
Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade made history Thursday in Calabar when he swore in three new Justices for the state’s high court making it a total of seven Judges in less than 35 months in office.
They are Justice Imelda Bassey Etape, Justice Obo Awusa Obo and Justice Emmanuel Agianpuye Ubua.
Mr. Ayade had sworn in three high court Judges in 2016 and, the current State Chief Judge and, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Joe Abang told journalists in an unofficial chat that he may even swear in up to ten or more by the time he leaves office.
In his remarks, Mr. Ayade called for a review of laws into the principle of Kantianism, moral and equity even as he believed that he was inspired by God to choose the very best since one cannot really administer law.
“In moments of this nature when I sit, nominate, administer and swear people into office, I do so believing clearly that I am only inspired by the power of God to ensure that we choose only the very very very best,” Ayade said.
Ayade, who said that law should be driven by the true African heritage, charged the Judges to look at the social nexus of every crime committed as humanity may have been eroded if the Judge dishes out penalties without looking at the sociological difficulties that may have informed the crime committed.
He averred that: “I want to speak to your conscience, I want to speak to your truth that no matter how you look at the law whether from point of common law, equity or jurisprudence; they can’t really administer law because law itself is a codification of societal norms but does not really represent the true value of the human conscience.
“Therefore, there is an increasing agitation, that law must migrate from a set of rules derived from the people but to what is good to the conscience.
“It is at that celestial level that jurisprudence begins to control, to regulate and calibrate equity which is to modify and in fact reduce the harshness of law.
“But today, law must rise above all of these, to the principles of Kantianism, morality and good conscience; is this fair?
“Societal pressure has brought upon us new levels of crimes and dimensions that cannot be given classical explanation on the principle of human relations where societal pressure makes a man go beyond what he out-rightly won’t do.
“It is a time of challenge at that circumstance, where you as a Judge, you are sitting at that high table to decide whether a man’s freedom will be taken from him or not; whether a penalty will be given or not. It is your responsibility to look at the social nexus of every crime because we must advance as a nation, we must advance as a society to a greater goal and a higher philosophy; a higher essence of being.
“In as much as we rely on documentations and turn ourselves to mathematical computers that interpret a code, a section or subsection and dish out penalties without understudying the real sociology of a crime, we would have failed as a people.
“Law has been static for too long. We must reach a point at that time in life where law will derive its morality from the circumstance and events.”
Furthermore, Ayade who posited that Man’s nature has an element of criminality, said the courts are structured in a way that they do not deliver peace, hence the need for a new legal thinking and philosophy.
“There are certain simple human crimes that must be considered outside the boundaries and beacons of law.
“I ask all of you as legal luminaries, I challenge all of you to a new thinking and a new philosophy that one day, law will be driven by the true African heritage where we sit together and look at the circumstance and matter and take decisions based on what is good,” Ayade said.
He added that: “The law today as structured, the courts in particular only deliver judgments, they don’t deliver peace. When two people come before you and a judgment is given; one has won, one has lost; you have made permanent enemies. Your full responsibility therefore is to seek arbitration.”
Also, the governor who said that: “ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) remains the most welcomed concept in modern legislative and legal practice,” cited an instance of a man confessing to stealing a goat to sell and pay his children’s school fees, wondered what the new Judges will do which drew laughter from the crowded Executive Council chambers.
Imelda Bassey Etape (nee Duke) who was born in May 1965, studied law in the University of Calabar where she graduated in 1985 and proceeded to the Nigerian Law School in Lagos where she was called to bar in 1986 before proceeding to the Bauchi state justice ministry where she carried out her mandatory one year youth service scheme.
She then served in the chambers of Mr. Yellow Duke from 1987 to 1991 and joined the Cross River State judiciary as a magistrate in 1991 where she served as Chief magistrate in Akamkpa, Akpabuyo and Akpap Okoyong.
She rose to the rank of Chief Registrar in the Cross River State judiciary where she has served in different capacities and is a member of many professional bodies including the Commonwealth association of magistrates.
Justice Obo Awusa, born April 11, 1969, who hails from Owakande in Obubra local government studied law in the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria from 1993 and graduated in 2000 due to incessant industrial actions. He was called to the bar in 2002.
He served in the Chambers of S.O Odama and associates where he rose to a senior management rank before breaking out in 2011 to establish his Obo Awusa and co Ferraro Chambers.
He declined an appointment to serve as a member of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission by President Muhammadu Buhari in December 2017.
Also, Justice Emmanuel Ubua, born on April 25, 1966 a native of Akorshie in Bendi community of Obanliku local government area, studied law in the then University of Cross River State (now University of Uyo) from 1986 to 1990.
He was called to bar in 1991 and served in Kaduna state after which he returned to Obudu and after serving briefly with Mike Inyanu and co, set up Izato, Ubua and Aniah chambers alongside Mr. Barth Izato and former Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Mike Aniah before brraking out and setting up his Chambers E.A Ubua and Co Chambers in Obudu and Abuja.
Justice Ubua is said to have served in several capacities including a member of the state’s law reform commission when he was appointed by Governor Ayade in 2015.
Earlier, the secretary to the state government, Mrs. Tina Agbor in her address had said that Mr. Ayade’s action will “reinforce the existing harmonious relationship between the executive and judiciary.”
She said the trio “having being found worthy in character and in learning,” and in accordance with Section 270 subsection two (2) and three (3) were appointed judges of the Cross River State High Court.
Responding on behalf of the nee Justices, Justice Etape commended Mr. Ayade for his personal commitment in ensuring they were appointed.
She said the Chief Judge, Justice Michael Edem gave the “clinical finishing” to the course as he had to “ruffle a few feathers” to ensure the “Project 2018” came to pass.
Responding to Mr. Ayade’s question, she said that the Judges will ask “what society has precipitated the man to steal, the issues surrounding the man that will make him steal instead of engaging in honest business to pay his children’s school fees.”
She posited that the lawyers will do the questioning and tasked the political elites in tackling the societal issues that may have forced the man to steal.
Federal legislator, Mike Etaba who represents Obubra/Etung federal constituency, the Chief Registrar of the Bayelsa state judiciary who represented the Chief Judge, Judges of the state’s High Court, family, friends and well-wishers of the new Judges were in attendance.
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