15 November 2012

Nigeria: Jumbo-Ofo - Group Sues FG, Challenges Federal Character Act

A human rights group, Women Empowerment and Legal Aid Initiative (WELA) has dragged the Federal Government before a Federal High Court in Lagos over the refusal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Aloma Mukhtar to swear in Justice Ifeoma Jumbo-Ofo as a justice of the Court of Appeal.

In a motion on notice filed by the trustees of WELA and its executive Director, Mrs Funmi Falana, the group is challenging the guiding principle of the Federal Character Act and seeking an order for the enforcement of fundamental rights of Nigerian women against discrimination.

Joined as respondent in the suit is the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN).

In the motion brought pursuant to Order 1 Rule 2 of Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules 2009 and under the inherent jurisdiction of the court, the applicant is asking for a declaration that Section 2, Part II of the Guiding Principles and Formulae for the Distribution of all Cadres of Post under the Federal Character Commission, Act CAP F7 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 which provides that a married woman shall continue to lay claim to her state of origin for the purpose of implementing the Federal Character Formulae at the national level is discriminatory, inconsistent and contravenes the provision of Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution.

The applicant is asking for the abrogation of section 2 of part 11 of the Federal Character Commission Act, Cap F7, Laws of Federation Character Formulae forthwith.

Section 2 of the Act stated, "A married woman shall continue to lay claim to her state of Origin for the purpose of implementation of the Federal Character Formulae at the National level."

In the suit, the plaintiff wants the court to determine "whether Section 2, Part II of the Guiding Principles and Formulae for the Distribution of all Cadres of Post under the Federal Character Commission Act, Laws of the Federation, and section 42 of the 1999 Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap. A9 Laws of Federation of Nigeria, 2004."

Relying on the provision of the constitution, they argued that 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 be subject either expressly by, or in the practical application of any law in force in Nigeria or executive or administrative action of the government to disabilities or restriction to which citizen of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, place of origin, sex, religious or political opinions are not made subject.

In a 14-paragraph affidavit in support of the motion, Mrs. Falana averred that on November 5, 2012, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Muktar refused to administer oath of office on the Justice Ifeoma Jumbo-Ofo on the ground that she has taken the slot of Abia State, her husband's state and not Anambra, her own state of Origin.

According to her, majority of the High Court judges serving in the Federal Capital Territory are not indigenes of the Federal Capital Territory and that two of the former Chief Justices of Lagos State, Justice Omotunde Ilori and Justice Ade Alabi are from Osun and Ondo States respectively.

Challenging the propriety of the Act, Mrs. Falana said the policy was discriminatory and not applicable to men who apply to become judges in Nigeria.

No date has been fixed for the case.

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