By Jonathan Abu
On any issue, there are always three sides to it – the ‘truth’ from both sides of the divide and the real truth. For some days now, there has been this hullabaloo about the alleged confirmation and sack of the former Acting Chief Judge of Kebbi State, Justice Elizabeth Asabe Karatu. It has been back and forth on the veracity of what transpired between the former judge, the governor, Atiku Abubakar Bagudu and the Kebbi State House of Assembly.
Justice Karatu, no doubt, paid her dues, having served the bench for close to 35 years. No query, no suspension. She was unblemished. She was appointed acting chief judge and rightly so. She was the most senior in the hierarchy when the incumbent, Justice Bala Ibrahim Mairiga was to retire. Mairiga retired October 30, 2018 while Karatu was appointed in acting capacity October 26, 2018.
Bagudu, as expected, forwarded her name to the House of Assembly for confirmation on June 2, 2018. She was invited to the house for screening. She was screened. However, the verdict of the screening was that she could not be confirmed because of alleged alterations of dates observed on her primary school leaving certificate. In another letter sent to the House, Bagudu, this time, hoping to convince the House, appealed that she be considered again. But the House, in a signed letter by its speaker, Abdulmumini Kamba said her confirmation would have been easier if not for the alleged alterations discovered in her records.
With the complications arising from her records, the governor was said to have approached the National Judicial Council, NJC, which advised him to represent same to the House, but it was still the same-no dice. This stalemate made the NJC to constitute a four-man committee to visit the state with a view to finding a lasting solution. The committee comprised of Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory and Chairman of the committee, Justice Ishaq Usman Bello, Chief Judge of Imo state, Justice Pascal Obinna Nnadi, Grand Khadi of Kwara State, Justice Idris Abdullahi Haroon, and a member of the NJC, Hajiya Sarki Ibrahim. The committee met with the governor and Speaker of the House.
There, it was established that the House never confirmed the former acting judge. With the approval of the NJC, in its letter dated June 11, 2019, Justice Sulaiman Ambursa, being the most senior, was sworn- in, in acting capacity.
Meanwhile, the former acting judge reportedly petitioned the NJC against the said action of the governor, claiming that she was refused to be sworn-in because she was a Christian even after she had been screened and confirmed by the state House of Assembly.
She reportedly said in the petition, “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 and all my children are still devoted Muslims. The NJC set up a reconciliation committee in May 2019 to come to Kebbi and talk to the governor about my confirmation and swearing-in. But before my confirmation, Justice Ambursa engaged in trading with the governor and the speaker of the House and indeed to the public that I was sponsored by the Christian association 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 grounds of alteration on my certificate which I believed must have been cooked by Justice Ambursa.”
Karatu in the petition claimed that the state’s House of Assembly confirmed her for the job which Kamba denied vehemently. Kambo said: At no time did we at plenary or an executive session confirm the appointment of Justice Karatu as claimed in the social media story. The purported letter mentioned in the story was never written by us.
On three occasions that her name was brought forward to the House, on three occasions, it was withheld. The alleged alterations in her records were quite inconsistent. It should also be added that it is not the governor that confirms such nominations. The governor does not have such power.
The power is vested in the House. It is after the confirmation that the governor can then swear in such persons.”
This background is necessary in order to put the event in proper perspective. I think to play the ethnic or religious card in all of this is missing the point. The point is and should be the inconsistencies in her records.
Are they true? That is what should be on the plate rather than who worships what and where you come from.
Yes, the question that naturally follows is what has the system been doing before the so called observation? Yes, the fact that the system did not look into her records until now still does not make her alleged action right.
On a lighter note. Until this hullabaloo, Bagudu was a Christian. That was why he did everything, three times, submitting his fellow Christian’s name to the House so that she could be confirmed and sworn in. Now that he has converted to Islam, he suddenly realized that working with a Christian was detrimental to his new belief. So, if Bagudu whom she claimed rejected her expected appointment because of her faith, the question any discerning mind would ask is why would Bagudu, a Muslim, went all out, three times, to ensure that the House confirmed Karatu. When did Karatu suddenly realise that Bagudu hated her and her faith? Was she not aware on those three occasions where he was pleading and appealing to the house on her behalf so that she could be confirmed? Bagudu was a good man when he had renewed her appointment between 2018 and 2019. But the moment the man could no longer push his way through for her, he became a bigot.
Bagudu superintended the education committee of the Senate between 2009 and 2015 before he returned home to superintend Kebbi State as its governor in 2015. None of his colleagues who were of other faith can and would say he was biased whether in thought or in actions.
Karatu made her case worse by her wild but unsubstantiated allegations. Bagudu is the least person to play any card, talk less of religion which he, being the chief security officer of the state, knows the implications and the effects it may have on the general being of the state. Black is black. White is white. There is no amount of coloration you can give black to turn white and vice versa. The religious card the former acting judge played was in bad taste which, unfortunately, fell flat like a pack of cards.