Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Stop Discriminating Against Women in the Judiciary - AFA

Alliances for Africa (AfA) strongly condemns the decision of the National Judicial Council (NJC) for suspending the swearing in of Hon. Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo as a judge of the Court of Appeal on the basis of her state of origin.

The position that the Hon. Justice cannot be nominated for promotion to the Court of Appeal from her husband's state because her state of origin is different is discriminatory.

The practice of depriving women appointments, promotions or benefits in the judiciary and other sectors because of their state of origin or marital status is clearly discriminatory and violates the constitutionally protected right to freedom from discrimination as provided for in Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

It also contravenes Nigeria's obligation under international law to eliminate discrimination against women and protect women from such discrimination (Art 2. Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa; Art 2. CEDAW - Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women).

It is unjust, unfair and inequitable to deny a female justice who has put in fourteen (14) years of active service in the development of the state's judiciary and the state as a whole is denied promotion from that state solely on the grounds that she does not come from that state although her husband does.

Women experience unduly imposed restrictions and face opposition when they pursue benefits they have earned or have worked for merely because of their marital status.

Particularly, married women whose husbands have a different state of origin from theirs, face double discrimination.

By virtue of their marriage they may be treated as relinquishing their states of origin and in their spouses' states are still not considered as having adopted their husbands' states of origin. This leads to a state of limbo where they are disqualified from benefiting from either state and their rights violated.

According to a global study, "In pursuit of Justice - 2011-2012 Progress of the World's Women," by UNWOMEN, women are under-represented in most of the highest courts and very few are Chief Justices.

In this study, Nigeria was rated in the bottom at 6% on proportionality. AfA strongly believes that opportunities to increase women's participation in decision-making and in the judiciary should not be denied by reason of place of origin.

Most importantly, merit and qualifications should not be dismissed because of practices that are restrictive and tend to perpetuate a culture of exclusion that encourages the unfair treatment of women which potentially affects women negatively more than men.

AfA therefore calls on the NJC and the FJSC (Federal Judicial Service Commission) to review and encourage policies and practices in the judicial sector that are consistent with equity and fairness.

They should further develop measures that would ensure that women are represented equally in the judiciary (Art 8 (f), Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa)

AfA also calls on the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to swear in Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo as a judge of the Court of Appeal.

We further urge the Hon. CJN to take steps to eliminate all practices, procedures and codes that discriminate against women and to improve policies that would ensure that women on an equal basis with men have opportunities for career growth in the judicial service.

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