A former Nigerian Minister of Aviation has expressed disappointment on alleged refusal of Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State to confirm the acting Chief Judge of the state to a Chief Judge on the basis of being a Christian.
Femi Fani-Kayode in his Twitter on Friday wrote “Gov. Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi surprises me. How can the son-in-law of the great Marafan Sokoto of blessed memory and husband to the beautiful Zainab refuse to confirm the Acting CJ of his state because she is Christian and then fire her for complaining?
Fani-Kayode, therefore, queried “Is it a crime to be Christian?”
The acting Chief Judge of Kebbi State, Esther Asabe Karatu, had written a petition to the National Judicial Council over Governor Atiku Bagudu’s alleged refusal to confirm her as substantive chief judge of the state.
In the petition obtained by Daily Nigerian, the acting chief judge said 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.
On January 17, 2019, Kebbi State House of Assembly also confirmed Mrs Karatu as substantive chief judge of the state, but the governor refused to act on the assembly’s confirmation.
In a 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,” the three-paragraph letter read in part.
Mrs Karatu, who is due to retire on July 5, 2019, was also denied right to swear in the governor on May 29, 2019, a duty the Grand Khadi of the state, Muhtar Imam Jega did.
But Babale Yauri, the Secretary to the Kebbi State Government, said the refusal of the governor to confirm Mrs Karatu as substantive chief justice was not because of her religion.
“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 said.
According to the SSG, 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.
“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 personal 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.