Law Weekly Examines CJN’s First Year In Office

One year after she assumed office, law weekly looks at some of the activities of the first female chief justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukthar.

Also on this edition, Professor of public law at the University of Lagos, Professor Taiwo Osipitan, a senior advocate of Nigeria gives his perspective of the reforms in the judiciary under the leadership of the CJN.

Recently, Justice Mukhtar, marked her first year in office having succeeded Justice Dahiru Musdapher who retired on the 15th of July, 2012

Prof Osipitan was called to the bar in 1981. He joined the faculty of law of the University of Lagos in 1983. He has risen to become a professor of public law at the university.

He was conferred with the rank of senior advocate of Nigeria in 2002 also specialises in litigation of commercial and public law.

Chief Justice Warn Lawyers On Corrupt Practices

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Aloma Justicw Mariam Mukthar, has admitted that the lack of transparency; integrity and accountability are some of the factors responsible for the increasing level of corruption in Nigeria.

She stated this a seminar organised by the anti-corruption commission of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) where the issue of large scale corruption was again given prominence as the lawyers seek ways of stemming the tide in the country.

The CJN read the riot act to members of the bar and the bench, warning that the depreciation in budgetary allocation for the judiciary is not an excuse to engage in corrupt practices.

Addressing participants at a two day seminar, Justice Mukhtar warned judicial officers to shun corruption and vowed to deal with corrupt judicial officers saying corruption in the judiciary undermines the nation’s fragile democratic system by fuelling popular disillusionment with the country’s justice system.

Also speaking, NBA’s President, advised litigants to report corrupt lawyers and judges as he was corroborated by Professor Peter Abah of the Federal Ministry of Justice who announced a new strategy by the government to combat corruption.

The Solicitor General of Lagos State, called for a review of the role of lawyers in the administration of justice while the President of the anti-corruption commission of NBA suggested ways of stemming the tide of corruption.

The two day seminar which attracted legal luminaries where they deliberated on ways of repositioning and strengthening the legal practitioners’ disciplinary committee for a credible bar in addition to promoting openness and honesty within the bar.


Nigerians Are Encouraged By Judiciary Reforms – Onyekachi Ubani

The chairman, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Onyekachi Ubani, has claimed that Nigerians are encouraged by recent events in the nation’s judiciary such as the punishment erring judges.

While speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast; Show Sunrise Daily, Mr. Ubani said “justice must not only be said to be done but must be seen to be done” and “that is what the present Chief Justice Nigeria (CJN) Justice Aloma Mukhtar is trying to restore, the confidence that has been lost in the system”.

Ubani who admitted that the judiciary is corrupt and needs to be reformed, expressed believe in the CJN’s ability to complete the reforms she has initiated.

Dwelling on the issue of appointment of judges, Mr. Ubani explained that it’s a brave responsibility to be a judge.

He describe the position of a judge as the “temple of justice,” stating it must not be defiled and whoever occupies the position has to be intellectually sound and must posses good integrity and character.

Expert Criticises Use Of Plea Bargain For Corruption Cases In Nigeria

A professor of Criminology, Femi Odekunle has said that the use of plea bargain in the Nigeria judicial system has been inappropriately applied and that it has been used for offenses committed by those with powerful social and economic status.

While speaking on Channels Television’s Breakfast Show Sunrise Daily, Mr Odekunle said in users of plea bargain in Nigeria often emphasised  ‘technicalities over and above substantive justice’.

He said the recent suspension of Justice Talba is the “first step in a million steps that we need to clean up our judiciary.”

Mr Odekunle condemned those who have been seeing such offenses and have not done anything; he praised Justice Aloma Mukhtar for getting rid of the abuse of plea bargain.

He listed the benefits of plea bargin to include: getting rid of minor cases if properly applied; reducing the work load of prosecuting and defense lawyers; enforcing of law and order.

• It can be used to free the system for attention of important cases such as murder, rape amongst others.


NJC orders swearing in of Justice Jombo-Ofo

The National Judicial Council (NJC) has ordered that Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo be sworn-in as the Justice of the Court of Appeal, ending the controversy over her state of origin and marriage.

The NJC in a press statement released on Wednesday, and signed by the council’s Deputy Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, stated that the council “unanimously decided that Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo, be sworn-in.”

A petition had allowed the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukthar, to suspend the swearing in of Justice Jombo-Ofo with other 11 newly appointed Justices for the Court of Appeal because the petition claimed she was getting the appointment for a state which was not her state of origin but that of her spouse.

The petition alleged that Justice Jombo-Ofo was falsely representing Abia State, having hailed from Anambra but married to a citizen of Abia State.

But in announcing its decision, the NJC observed that the binding principles and formulae for the distribution of all Cadres of Posts (S.I.23 of 1997) provides in Part II, Section 2 as follows ʺA 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.”

The NJC further noted that the Federal Judicial Service Commission and the NJC, being federal executive bodies established in pursuance of Section 153 (1I) of the 1999 Constitution are bound and obliged to observe and obey the provisions of the constitutional law of the federal republic of Nigeria, including the Federal Character Commission Act.

It therefore directed that “the legislative, executive bodies and government agencies involved in her appointment to obey the stipulations of the law and the provisions in the Nigerian constitution relating to such matters.”

The council commended the CJN for “exercising sufficient caution, diligence and maturity in the matter, especially in the light of the documents, materials and other information available to her, and for taking the decision to put on hold the swearing-in of Justice Jombo-Ofo as a Justice of the Court of Appeal.”

The CJN had on the 5th November, written President Goodluck Jonathan to inform him that the matter of the non-swearing in of Justice Jombo-ofo, would be tabled before the NJC.

Nigeria to get first female Chief Justice

President Goodluck Jonathan has nominated Justice Aloma Mukthar as the next Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), making her the first female CJN in the nation’s history.

The president forwarded the nomination of Justice Mukthar to the Senate for confirmation on Wednesday in conformity with Section 123 (1) of the 1999 constitution as amended.

If approved by the Senate, Justice Mukthar will replace Chief Justice Dahiru Musdapher, who is due to retire on July 13, 2012 having reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.

The new CJN if approved, will become the first female head of the Nigeria’s judiciary.

Born in Kano state in 1944, the jurist was also the first woman to be appointed Judge at the Court of Appeal in September, 1987.

Justice Mukhtar, who was called to the Nigerian bar in 1967, a year after she was called to the English bar, was also the first female to be appointed Justice of the Supreme Court, in 2005.

She is at present, one of only three female justices of the apex court, the others being Olufunlola Adekeye and Mary Odili.

The nominated CJN was one of the three judges-with a minority vote- sought to nullify the 2007 presidential elections that brought in late President Umaru Yar’Adua, when they ruled that the several violations of the electoral law particularly non serialization of ballot papers used for the Presidential election, was enough to disqualify the election.

Their views were however in the minority as the majority of four Supreme Court Justices ruled that the non-compliance, though existed, were not enough to invalidate the elections.

President Jonathan also forwarded the names of Justices Kumai Akaahs and Stanley Alagoa for confirmation as Justices of the Supreme Court.