Thursday, June 13, 2019

Kebbi State acting Chief Judge petitions NJC over the Governor's alleged refusal to confirm her for ‘being Christian’

Esther Asabe Karatu
The acting Chief Judge of Kebbi state, Esther Asabe Karatu, has petitioned the National Judicial Council (NJC) over Governor Atiku Bagudu’s alleged refusal to confirm her as substantive chief judge of the state because she is a Christian.

In the petition, the acting chief judge cited politics of religion and her firm belief in justice and fairness were some of the reasons the state governor denied her rights despite the recommendation of NJC.

In a local news report, it was stated that on the 17th of January 2019, the Kebbi State House of Assembly confirmed Mrs Karatu as substantive chief judge of the state, but the governor refused to act on the assembly’s confirmation.

In a three-page letter to the governor, referenced KBHA/LEG/001/XI and entitled RE: APPOINTMENT AND REQUEST FOR CONFIRMATION OF JUSTICE ELIZABETH ASABE KARATU AS CHIEF JUDGE OF KEBBI STATE, the speaker of the state House of Assembly Abdulmumini Kamba conveyed the Assembly’s approval.
“Reference to your submission dated, 6th November, 2018, I am glad to inform you that at an Executive Session held on Thursday, 17th January, 2019, the Hon. House resolved and confirmed Justice Elizabeth Asabe Karatu as the Chief Judge of Kebbi State.” 

Mrs Karatu, who is due to retire on July 5, 2019, was also denied right to swear-in the governor on May 29, 2019.

But according to the Secretary to the Kebbi State Government, Babale Yauri, he said that the the refusal of the governor to confirm Mrs Karatu as substantive chief justice was not because of her religion.

He said, “The State Assembly did not screen her because of some discrepancies in her credentials. It was not the governor’s fault, and his action has nothing to do with religion.”

He also said that the letter purportedly sent to the governor by the State Assembly is fake as it was not duly signed.

But in the petition Mrs Karatu wrote to NJC, the judge also made case against the appointment of Justice Mohammed Sulaiman Ambursa to replace her for allegedly being corrupt and friends with politicians.

“The practice in the judiciary is that when judges are to be sworn into office, the one who was first called to bar would be sworn in first and thus he becomes the senior. However, in our case, Justice Ambursa was sworn in first even though I was called to the bar 6 years before him. I was called to the bar in 1980 while Justice Ambursa was called in 1986."

“I have been working for 35 years up to the rank of Permanent Secretary and later became a Judge but Justice Ambursa has never complained about my religion, in fact most of his victims are Muslims rather than Christians. I therefore believe that he is just using religion for his person gain. I was a Muslim before and all my Children are still devoted Muslims. I know what Islam is all about; it is religion of peace, fairness and Justice."

“In its effort to harmonize my relationship with the Governor, the NJC set up a Committee of Reconciliation in May, 2019 to come to Kebbi to talk to the Governor about my confirmation and swearing in. However, before the arrival of the members of the Committee, the Attorney General, Ramatu Gulma who is an ally to Justice Ambursa went to the Birnin Kebbi Airport with Government Vehicles to receive the members."

“At the meeting with the Governor, the Attorney General told the Committee that I am the enemy of the Government because I ordered the detention of family members of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo who were suspected to have committed the offence Fraud of Millions of Naira before Chief Magistrate Court in Birnin Kebbi.

“The Attorney General accused me of failure assist the vice president’s family who were facing criminal charges which means I am the enemy of his Excellency and his political party. I therefore deserve no assistance.

“Before the end of the meeting, it was agreed that I would be sworn in as substantive Chief Judge but the Governor would recommend the next Chief Judge of Kebbi State, but yet I have not been sworn in and I will be retiring on 5th July, 2019.

“Undoubtedly, the entire crisis was masterminded by Justice M.S Ambursa in order to frustrate my administration as Chief Judge. His aim was to become the Chief Judge before 2019 Elections so that he will play a role in the Elections Petition Tribunals being a loyalist to Senator Adamu Alieru, Mr. Rotimi Ameachi and host of other politicians. It can be recalled that when Alieru was a Minister of the FCT, he allocated a very large plot of land to Justice Ambursa which he later sold,” the petition read in part.

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