By Umar Salam.
The acting Chief Judge of Kebbi State, Esther Asabe Karatu, has petitioned the National Judicial Council, NJC, over the alleged refusal of Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu to confirm her as substantive chief judge of the state, despite the recommendation of NJC.
The Kebbi State House of Assembly had on January, 17, 2019, confirmed Mrs Karatu as substantive chief judge of the state, but the governor has declined assenting to the assembly’s confirmation.
The acting chief judge alleged that politics of religion and her firm belief in justice and fairness were some of the reasons the state governor declined her confirmation.
Mrs Esther Karatu, who is due for retirement next month, was also denied the right to swear-in the governor on May 29.
Responding to the allegations of the acting chief judge of the state, the Secretary to the Kebbi State Government, Babale Yauri, disclosed that the refusal of Governor Bagudu 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.”
However, in Mrs Karatu’s petition to NJC, she argued against the appointment of Justice Mohammed Sulaiman Ambursa to replace her for allegedly being corrupt and friends with politicians.
The petition read in part, “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.
“After the retirement of Justice Ibrahim Bala, I was sworn in as Acting Chief Judge being the most Senior Judge. However, before my confirmation, Justice Ambursa engaged in trading with the Governor and the Speaker of the House of Assembly and indeed to the public that I was sponsored by the Christians Association of Nigeria to serve the Christendom. He spent a lot of money in forestalling my confirmation at the House, and eventually the house rejected me on the ground of alteration on my certificate which I believed must have been cooked by Justice Ambursa.
“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.”