Esther Asabe Karatu, the acting Chief Judge of Kebbi State, has 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.
On January 17, 2019, the Kebbi state House of Assembly had confirmed Karatu as substantive chief judge of the state, but the governor refused to act on the Assembly’s confirmation.
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.
In the petition Mrs. Karatu wrote to NJC, the judge made a case against the Governor for not confirming her because of her religion. She also protested 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 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,” her petition read in part.
However, the secretary to the Kebbi state government, Babale Yauri, insisted that the refusal not to confirm her was not because of her religion. He said the letter purportedly sent to the governor by the State Assembly is fake as it was not duly signed.
“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.