9 November 2012

Nigeria: Pretence to Justice


WHY all the outrage about Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Maryam Aloma Mukhtar, refusing to administer oath of office on Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo, as a justice of the Appeal Court?

Is hers the only instance of the mass violation of the Constitution that everyone in the executive, judiciary and National Assembly has encouraged?

The current posturing is a charade and another in the ways that we react instead of acting. It is a disgrace that the exalted office of a Court of Appeal justice would be treated so indecorously. Any petition on Justice Jumbo-Ofo, should have been handled before the event. Was the petition received that morning? Why humiliate her by assigning her a seat, then asking her to leave the ceremony? Family and associates, including the Abia State Governor, Chief Theodore Orji, came to congratulate her.

She was qualified to be a Justice of the Court of Appeal. Abia State judiciary, where, according to Governor Orji, she had served faithfully, nominated her. She was denied a place because she was from Anambra State and should not occupy Abia State's slot.

Governor Orji reportedly in a letter to the Chief Justice of Nigeria said her nomination was in recognition of her meritorious service to Abia State. He asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria to disregard the petition against her.

The Jumbo-Ofo case falls fully under discrimination, a common, unconstitutional practice in Nigeria. Section 42 (1) of the Constitution states, "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."

State-owned higher institutions that demand higher school fees from students dubbed non-indigenes are practising the same discrimination Section 42 forbids. Are all the people shouting about Justice Jumbo-Ofo unaware of these discriminatory practices?

More pointedly, Section 42 (2) states, "No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth." Would justice have been done once Jumbo-Ofo is elevated to the Court of Appeal?

No, it would be mere pretence to justice. Millions of Nigerians are suffering discrimination. Justice Jumbo-Ofo's case has just highlighted how thriftily we consider the Constitution.

The Constitution cannot award us rights as citizens and we access the rights as indigenes: it is a contradiction that must be addressed, beyond Jumbo-Ofo.

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