Petition over indigeneship costs Abia judge Appeal Court slot

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•CJN ignores gov’s plea at swearing-in

From GODWIN TSA, Abuja

Controversy yesterday trailed the inauguration of some new Justices of the Court of Appeal in Abuja by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloma Mukhtar, following the exclusion of a female jurist, Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo whose name was removed because of a petition that the state she represents (Abia), is not her state of origin.

The Supreme Court had initially released a list of 12 Justices for the ceremony including the name of Justice Jombo-Ofo, who was appointed a High Court judge on November 4, 1998 following her call to the Bar in 1979, as representing Abia where she had served for many years after her marriage to Mr. Jombo- Ofo, an indigene of the state. But this did not go down well with some Abia indigenes who petitioned Justice Mukhtar, seeking the removal of her name as she did not hail from the state.

Sources at the apex court said that a petition was forwarded to the CJN, alleging that Justice Jombo-Ofo did not disclose the truth of her state of origin. She hailed from Anambra State from where she transferred her service to Abia, after her marriage.

The petitioners reportedly piled pressure on the judiciary to stop her elevation to the appellate court. Efforts by Abia State Gov. Theodore Orji, who was present at the ceremony to save Justice Jumbo-Ofo, failed. Besides his presence at the ceremony, Daily Sun gathered that the governor had written a letter to the CJN last Saturday confirming the indigeneship of Justice Jumbo-Ofo who had served in the Abia State judiciary since 1998, affirming that her name was indeed sent by the state government as one of the Abia candidates for elevation to the appellate court. Governor Orji urged the CJN to disregard any spurious petition or allegation against her indegeneship and swear her in.

The governor’s effort did not change things. Just last Wednesday, Justice Olufunlola Adekeye, in her speech to mark her retirement from the Supreme Court, had implored the CJN, the Chief Judges of the states, the Judicial Service Commission and the National Judicial Council (NJC) to review the policy that married women cannot reach the peak of their career in their husbands’ states. Justice Adekeye noted that complaints of this nature are increasingly rampant in the judiciary and stated that most women transfer their services to their husbands’ states immediately after their marriage which, according to her, it is logical and in compliance with the tenets of marriage that the two spouses shall become one.

The retired jurist regretted that whenever there is vacancy at the top in the husband’s state, the woman will be denied the post and would be referred to her state after climbing the ladder and putting so many years into the service. An indigene of the state will thereafter, take the position.

She said that the woman would have hurdles to cross in her state as she did not work there and the authorities there would not be able to assess her suitability for the post properly. “It is my view that during the existence of her marriage, the name of her husband must qualify and make her eligible to reach the peak of her career in her husband’s state.

I think it is unconstitutional as well as discriminatory to deprive her of her promotion in her acquired state as a citizen of Nigeria, by virtue of Section 42 of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” Section 42 of the Constitution provides as follows: (1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:- (a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or (b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions.

Those sworn in yesterday were Justices Ibrahim S. Bdliya, who was called to the Bar in 1976 and appointed a High Court judge on August 20, 1987; Abiriya James Shehu, called to the Bar in 1979, appointed a High Court judge on September 17, 1993; and Obietonbara O. Daniel-Kalio, also became a judge in October 30, 1995. Others were Justices Onyekachi Otisi, called to Bar in 1980 and sworn in as a High Court Judge in November, 1998; Stephen Jonah Adah, called to Bar in 1982 and appointed a High Court judge on November 12, 1998; Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson, who became a judge on May 3, 1999 having been called to the Bar in 1975; and Fatima Akinbami, who was called to Bar in 1977 and sworn in as High Court Judge on May 12, 1999.

The rest were Justices Habeeb Adewale Abiru, who was called to the Bar in 1985 and appointed to the High Court Bench in May, 2001; Peter Olabisi Ige, sworn in as High Court judge on June 27, 2001 following his call to the Bar in 1985; Tijani Abubakar, called to the Bar in 1985 and sworn in as a High Court Judge in 2004; and Emmanuel Agim who was sworn in as a High Court judge in 2008.

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35 Comments

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  5. It is a shame that the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the National Judicial Council in this century still practice this kind of system. US is conducting their Presidential Election today and one of the candidates is from Africa in case NJC don’t know. I thought the men and women of the bench should know better that one plus one in marriage is still one. We should build this country on a very strong foundation for posterity.

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    • If ndigbo is united as you said. is it not the same ndigbo that sent petition on mrs jombo? How would ndigbo release biafra which hypocracy and greed.

  7. This is as sad as it is unbelievable in this 21 century Nigerian judiciary. If the lead of authority in the state in the person of the Governor could not be respected as to who truly is an indigenes of a state, whose opinion should then count? The names of the petitioners should be made public so we can be sure they are truly Abians, and if they are, their opinion about citizenship should not surpass that of the man under whom the reigns of governance of the state rests. This is a Primitive Judicial blunder and being allowed to happen under the watchful eyes of the CJN who also is a woman that has suffered discrimination during her selection, calls to question if she is realy competent to occupy that exulted office. The judiciary has murdered marriage who will save this situation.

    • The same TA Orji who appears to champion the fight for this legal indigene of Abia State, was the same guy who fired all married female Abia indigenes of origin from Abia State Civil Service, whose husbands are citizens of other Nigerian states. He only reinstated them after discriminatory clamors rang high and loud Abians & threats from other states of retaliation with reciprocity. Everyone plays the race card or “the state of origin” mambo jumbo only when it is politically convenient. In a country where everyone is a citizen regardless of state of origin, indigeneship, ethnicity, religion, sex, creed, disability or ability, economic or social status, or political affiliation, we are still saddled with discrimination not only as blatant, irrational, idiotic, absurd, laughable, but also so primitive that it makes our judicial system the butt of international jokes. This is the 21st century, folks! We need to grow up and put an end immediately to this kind of silliness.

  8. Abia people have a very high discriminatary character.They have been doing these for a long time.Abia state government last year sacked civil servants that are considered not indigene in civil service .Workers who defintely are from neighbouring states – old Imo state, who have worked /served for many years in Abia state .
    Even in Lagos with its huge recurrent expenditure, people from other states and tribe are in their civil service.
    I am not writing this to change the situation but to alert peolpe who to work in Abia system.In Abia State University it is rare and diffcult to be promoted to a head of a department despite your qualification and the number of years of meritious service if you are not an Abia indigene.
    Abia state is backward .It is a shame that the eastern states governors forum still allow Gov orji to sit with them.

  9. Shame! Shame!! Shame!!! In this 21st century people are still talking about indigene and non-indigene. It is a total shame on Nigeria that a woman who married and took up her husband’s name and served his state faithfully as hers will be deprived the peak of her carrier for such frivolous reasons. Shame! Do you want her to leave her husband and go back to her state of origin? Why are Nigerians so retrogressive and primordial in their thinking? Shame on the CJN for giving in to the selfish men who petitioned against an accomplished woman of substance.

  10. The decision not to swear in Justice Jumbo-ofo based on her state of origin is unreasonable. In the last 10 years, she has been working in Abia state judiciary, married well over 10 years to an Abia man.

    There is problem in this country. Serious one!

    Madam CJN too did not help matter despite the state Governor’s attestation.May be she has a preferred candidate.

    Nigeria is NOT one! I am a Yoruba man, i live in Phc. I hv spent over 10 yrs. Now if any appointment is coming, not even a LG chancellorship, not will ever get to me, its crazy!

    Things must change! Yes, we need a change!

  11. dat serves dem right in d judicary. let her taste how it is wen ur right is bein denied.they ar the custodians of law.so many poeple out there has been denied of their right even in d law court. to hell wit all of them.useless law ,usless country

    • The governor himself should taste and see how denial of rights pains in the heart. Before he came all out to affirm the qualification and indiginization of this woman, i bet you there must be a deal because nothing goes for nothing is his motto. For me, whomever the cap fits let him wear. Members of the jury, i urge you to exhibit high level of professionalism in handling sensitive matters like this.

  12. This is clear discrimination against the female folk! Why should those in authorithy even allow this to happen in this age and era of civilisation? In most places/cultures,marriage automatically makes a woman an indigine in d place where her husband hails from,so I wonder why it should be different in dis case. Or are they trying to say that all the services she has rendered to Abia State all these yrs is in futility? People are really wicked and selfish,they can do anything to deny women their right to get to positions of power so they themselves can get there by all means. If there’s any law that tackles this kind of problem, it better be implemented seriously without delay.

  13. I dont knw the procedures d cjn is followin….this is nt just against public policy but also a breach of her fundamental human right… A married woman authomatically belongs to her husband, shares his name as well as ethnic she becomes an indegene by naturalisation…. I dont see why a woman who has served for that long will be denied been promoted to a higher rank; unless there is oda reasons u guys ar trynnin to hide 4rm us….pursuant to d so called indegene stuff..this is injustice!

  14. It is a pity that this could happen at a time people are clamouring for less emphasis on indigenes and tribe dicothomy, which has been the bane of development in our country. Nigeria is a country that make one step foward, and two steps backward, what better could have qualified a person for a slot than fourteen years of rendering services to a state? It is even more apolling that the CJN, in her wisdom chose to be on the side of the retrogressive forces than on the progressive and reasonable side. This is one decision that is capable of drawing the hand of progress backward, at a time we are clamouring for gender sensitisation and full right for women in their married states.

  15. It is a pity that this Madam is a victim of the injustice going in our society today.If the supreme court did not listen to Abia State governor,who is the number one citizen of State,then we should not be taken seriously in anything.Well the Abia state Governor started it,so he should also feel the bitter aspect of his past actions.

  16. BASKET MOUTH IS HERE AGAIN. THE COUNTRY US SICK. THE LEADERSHIP IS SICK. THE JUDICIARY IS SICK. NOW THE NASS US SUFERING FROM PUTAMIOSIS. NOW TELL ME HOW ON EARTH THESE SICK PEOPLE WILL EVER DO SOMETHING RIGHT? THEY SAY ONE NIGERIA .DEM DENY THE WOMAN HER RIGHT BCS SHE IS FROM ANAMBRA AND NOT ABIA. ABI NO BE THIS SAME ANAMBRA AND ABIA COMOT FROM OLD EASTERN STATE AS ONE STATE. DIS ONE NIGERIA WEY DEY SUFFER FROM SHEISEMBIOSIS NO GO STAND OOOH NA HIER I GO STOP.BM

  17. Udam Ochiaghandigbo on

    I can not believe how illiterate the CJN, Madam Aloma Mukhtar is. This is unbelievable that a so-called CJN, who is supposed to be educated can make a decision that a married woman can not represent the state in which she was married into. No one should ever respect that woman called the CJN, for, in my opinion, she has lost ALL respects accorded to decent human beings on earth.

  18. Very Very bad. The CJN would have sworn her in and let those petitioners go to Court. The CJN to me is an accomplish. Too bad. Now let see what d women folks in this country will do about this. This is babaric and uncivilised greedy people. I donot think this will happen in any other state but the Ibos. You married a woman, she bears children for you, she works for you for many years. And even in Ibo culture, in her oldage, after death she will be burried in her husband’s compound. And now you are refussing her right of place. This is too bad. It is a pity

  19. Abdullahi Usman on

    In certain parts of the country non indigenes contest for councillorship election and get elected . Those of you who clamor for separation is this what the state of Biafra represents ? State of origin , religion, sex, etc should not be a condition for consideration for appointment .

  20. I am disappointed by this development moreso coming from the first female CJN of Nigeria. This action of denying this eminently qualified jurist her place of honour is a shame to womanhood. That Muktari being a woman accepted this stupid and spurious posturing is totally disappointing as it is shameful. I urge all women organizations, NGO’s and human rights groups to stand up and fight this misdemeanor. Women should protest against the CJN she is a failure to womanhood and demand her immediate removal.

  21. IN IBO ONCE YOU ARE MARRIED YOU HAVE NO RIGHT IN YOUR FAMILY. ALL YOUR WEALTH BELONG TO YOUR HUSBAND FAMILY. AM SUPRISED THIS TYPE OF THING WILL HAPPEN IN LEGAL PROFESSION.THE WOMAN IS FROM ABIA AND NOT ANAMBRA SINCE ALL HER RIGHTS HAVE BEEN TRANSFERED WHEN THEY PAID HER BRIDE PRICE.

  22. It is clear that what happened to Mrs. Jomo-Ofo is politics. It is time that the concept of INDIGENE is given a befitting burial in Nigeria. It is also time to overhaul the Constitution to accord citizens in every state where they choose to reside.You will think that the last place for discrimination and injustice to exist is in the Judiciary.And to say that the Chief Justice who is a woman could not save Mrs. Jomo-Ofo is ironic. If this had happened to Mrs. Jomo-Ofo in America,she will be handsomely compensated. Nigeria deserves better.

  23. Nigerians should apologise to Mrs. Jomo-Ofo. I think the President should act to remedy this gross injustice by appointing her to another post.Someone said that the only thing necessary for reign of evil,is for good people to do nothing.

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