Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar has been appointed by Federal Republic of Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. She is the first woman to hold this position., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Senate clears Mukhtar as CJN, Musdapher bows out tomorrow .
Thursday, 12 July 2012 00:00
From John-Abba Ogbodo, Lemmy Ughegbe (Abuja) , Abiodun Fanoro , Bertram Nwannekanma and Joseph Onyekwere (Lagos). News - National
Panel may release new SANs list today
ALL is now set for the historic swearing-in of Justice Mariam Aloma-Mukhtar by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as the first woman Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) as the CJN Justice Dahiru Musdapher bows out tomorrow.
Already, the Senate has confirmed Mukthar as the CJN, paving the way for her swearing in next Monday.
The Guardian learnt that the list of new Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) may be released today with Lagos lawyer and activist, Femi Falana and Rotimi Jacobs, expected to be among successful candidates.
Born in Kano State, Justice Aloma-Mukthar was the first female northerner to become a lawyer. She was the first woman to be appointed a justice of the Court of Appeal. She is also the first female justice of the Court of Appeal to make it to the Supreme Court.
Her appointment, after the Senate’s clearance, will make her the 13th head of the nation’s judiciary since the appointment of Chief Justice Adetokunbo Ademola, the first CJN, who held the post from 1958 to 1972.
Reacting to this development yesterday, an Abuja-based SAN, Sebastine Hon, applauded her approval as the CJN, saying he had no doubt in her ability to steer the ship of the Judiciary.
In the same vein, former President of the West African Bar Association (WABA), Mr. Femi Falana, expressed optimism that Aloma-Muktar would raise the integrity of the Judiciary, charging her to fight corruption.
He described the new CJN as a “courageous and principled jurist” who was one of the three Justices of the Supreme Court that wrote the dissenting opinion in the presidential election case of Muhammadu Buhari versus Umaru Yar’Adua.
“She is a lady of justice and not of technicality. Her ladyship headed the panel, which recommended the resolution of the intractable case of the honourable Justice Ayo Salami, which led the National Judicial Council (NJC) to lift the suspension of the President of the Court of Appeal from service. Because of her solid integrity, Mrs. Justice Aloma-Muktar commands the respect of judges and lawyers”, he stated.
Falana, who tried to set agenda for the new CJN, urged her to reposition the Judiciary. He said: “The new Chief Justice is expected to reposition the National Judicial Council to defend the Judiciary and treat complaints against judges with dispatch. With the co-operation of her colleagues, she should embark on the task of decongesting the Supreme Court.”
He also tasked her on the need to fight corruption by collaborating with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to ensure that lawyers who serve as conduit pipe for corruption are identified and sanctioned.
According to him, under her leadership, the apex court should revisit and review judgments of the apex court that have tended to promote election malpractice, in particular, Section 285 of the Constitution which provides for the resolution of an election petition within 180 days.
“Similarly, Section 87 of the Electoral Act should not have been interpreted to justify the imposition of candidates by political leaders. The new Chief Justice has a duty to turn the Supreme Court to a court of justice and not a court of law”, he declared.
Before the Senate cleared Aloma-Mukhtar yesterday, she expressed concern over the image of the Judiciary with a pledge to improve the situation.
For about two hours, the new CJN answered questions from the lawmakers on the state of the Judiciary and the way forward, pledging to deal decisively with erring judicial officers.
“On the perception of the Judiciary by the public, indeed, as it is as at now, it is very bad and I am saddened by it. But then, as I said earlier on, I will try, I don’t want to sound like a broken record. I will try to make sure that the confidence reposed in the Judiciary, as it were before, will be returned. I will try as much as possible to ensure that the bad eggs that are there are flushed out. That there will be a cleansing by the National Judicial Council (NJC) based on petition. It is sad that the ordinary man on the street thinks and feels that he cannot get justice. This is because of the situation we find ourselves. I will ensure that this perception changes”, she said.
The new CJN pledged to lead by example and instil internal discipline in the Judiciary. “Corruption is everywhere. I intend to live by example and hope everybody will follow. I will encourage internal discipline. I will not condone frivolous petitions. I will work with other colleagues to sanitise the system. The NJC will ensure that any judicial officer who contravenes the law is dealt with”, she pledged.
On the call for special courts for cases of terrorism in the country, Justice Aloma-Mukhtar said there was no need for such courts rather, some judges should be specially assigned to handle such cases.
“My own take is that rather than establish a court just for that purpose, it will be better if a judge of a court is designated to hear and take these matters. If a court is created, as time goes by, the offences may continue to go down and if a court is specifically set up for that, then there will be not much for the judge or for the court to do. So, in my own view, I think once a judge or two judges or even three, if possible in a judicial division, are designated to deal with these offences, I think it will suffice”, she said.
On granting of frivolous injunctions by some judges, she said: “In fact, the National Judicial Institute (NJI) has, on many occasions, conducted training on this particular vexed issue but somehow, down the line, some judges will not heed the advice and directive they have been given. The NJC will ensure that whenever any judicial officer contravenes the law or contravenes the directive given to him, I think, with the co-operation of my colleagues, he will be dealt with.”
She said the only way to bring synergy into the operations of the various divisions of the Court of Appeal was to ensure that judgments delivered by them were sent to the headquarters so that copies could be sent to all the divisions to enable them know the actions already taken in another division.
Justice Aloma-Mukhtar also cautioned on the increase of the number of Supreme Court justices from the existing 17, saying there was nowhere in the world where there are more than this number. She added that a mechanism would be worked out to reduce the number of appeals going to the apex court.
After the questions at the Committee of the Whole, Senate President David Mark put the question on her confirmation and it was carried. Mark tasked her to work on the image of the Judiciary and work with other arms of government to ensure equity and justice.