•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.