7 November 2012

Nigeria: Senate Orders CJN to Swear in Appeal Court Judge

The Senate has ordered the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mariam Aloma-Mukhtar to immediately swear in an Appeal Court Judge, Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo, whom she declined to swear in with the rest of her colleagues on Monday.

Justice Jombo-Ofo, who was appointed a High Court judge on November 4, 1998 following her call to Bar in 1979, was on the initial list of the 12 released by the apex court for the swearing ceremony, but a controversial petition protesting against her taking Abia State's slot caused the jurist's name to be struck out. According to the petition, Jombo-Ofo did not disclose the truth of her state of origin. She is originally from Anambra, but subsequently transferred her service to her husband's state (Abia) upon marriage.

Leading the debate on the motion, Deputy Senate president Ike Ekweremadu said it was unfortunate that an issue as trivial as state of origin should be used to deny a competent career woman of her elevation in her chosen career.

Senator Uche Chukwumerije in his reaction said it is an ironic twist that this form of discrimination was happening under the captainship of a woman as the CJN.

"It is to me an ironic twist, that under the captainship of a female CJN, this is happening, the cause of women is suffering this fate."

Senate President David Mark in his ruling said this action should not be encouraged.

"The sanctity of marriage will be destroyed by this act if we allow it to go. I believe that we want to encourage professional women to maintain their profession and keep their marriages.

It is very unfortunate because they have all gone through the whole process of promotion, there is nothing left again, the swearing in is just a mere ceremony. And if this issue was not raised before until the point of swearing in, whether it intends to appease those who have petitioned, or whether it was done because she is not from her husband's state of origin is immaterial. I think she ought to have been sworn in.

I think the CJN is simply crying louder than the bereaved, because Abia state is not complaining. They submitted her name and the Governor was even there. So why should anyone accuse her of taking up Abia's slot?"

Last Wednesday during the valedictory court session for Justice Olufunlola Adekeye on her retirement from the Supreme Court, Justice Adekeye had begged the CJN, Chief Judges, Judicial Service Commission and National Judicial Council to review the policy that married women cannot reach the apogee of their careers in their husbands' states of origin.

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