Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar confirmed as First Female Justice(CJN) of Nigeria
Senate on Wednesday confirmed Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar as Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), making her the first female to rise to the position in the Nigerian judiciary.
While endorsing her nomination by President Goodluck Jonathan, the Senate enjoined her to work and improve on the poor public perception of the judiciary.
Justice Mukhtar is expected to be sworn in by the President, as the incumbent CJN, Dahiru Musdapher, bows out tomorrow.
Daily Independent also learnt that the list of new Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) may be released today.
Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Joy Emodi, at a briefing immediately after Mukhtar’s confirmation, described her appointment as a new dimension to Jonathan’s promise of gender inclusive government and promotion of women.
“He (President) has indeed uplifted Nigerian women to greater heights and left an indelible mark in the history of the nation.”
After two hours of screening, Senate President, David Mark, expressed the hope that Justice Mukhtar would do her best to improve on the image of the judiciary and promised that the legislature will work with the executive and the judiciary to ensure the development of the country.
Justice Mukhtar, while responding to questions from the Senators agreed that the image of the judiciary was at its lowest ebb now, saying “it is sad that the ordinary man on the street thinks that he cannot get justice because of the situation we have found ourselves.”
She promised to cleanse the sector to rid it of unwanted elements and restore public confidence in the third arm of government.
Justice Mukhtar regretted that the “perception of the judiciary by the public as it is now is very bad. I’m saddened by it.
“I will try, I don’t want to sound like breaking record, I will try to make sure that the confidence that is reposed in the judiciary is restored; I will try as much as possible to ensure that the bad eggs that are there are flushed out, there will be a cleansing by the NJC (National Judicial Council) based on petitions,” she assured.
Justice Mukhtar acknowledged the presence of corruption in the judiciary, asserting that “corruption is everywhere, I cannot pretend that it is not in the judiciary, what I intend to do is to lead by example and expect others to follow.”
On bail granted to terrorist suspects, the Justice of the Supreme Court blamed it on lack of relevant laws to deal with terrorism in Nigeria and charged the National Assembly to do something about it.
“The issue of terrorism is something that is aching everyone’s mind and everyone is anxious to end it; we can only stop it if there is a law in place; as it is now, there is no law in place; so, the ball is in your court because, as for the judiciary, as long as there is a law we will ensure compliance.
“I will liaise with the Executive to ensure that we partner with authorities to curb this and ensure that unnecessary granting of bail is reduced,” she said.
On the time limitation for electoral cases, Justice Mukhtar said their hands were tied by the relevant constitutional provisions, but urged dissatisfied persons to take advantage of the on-going Constitution Review and effect necessary amendments.
She, however, said the blame for prison congestion should not be placed on judiciary alone.
“It is not only judicial officers that are guilty of delay in cases; the prosecutor, defence counsel and the judges are all involved.
“To say the judiciary is responsible for delay of cases is most unfair.
“Sometimes the prosecutor is not ready, hence adjournments upon adjournments; again there is the issue of lack of vehicle to convey accused persons; the defence counsel will make applications upon applications and the case is delayed.
“Some judges are recalcitrant on frivolous court injunctions.
“We will instill discipline and internal cleansing and we’ll ensure that once any judicial officer contravenes the instruction he will be dealt with,” she assured.
On plea bargain, the incoming CJN submitted that “there is no harm in it if it is done in good faith and it is done in good conscience.”
She however disagreed with suggestion of Special Courts for Terrorism, noting: “My own take is that rather than establishing a court just for that purpose, it will be better if a judge of a court is designated to hear and take this matter.”
“If a single court is created, as time goes by, the offences may continue to diminish and if a court is specifically set up for that, there will not be much for the judge to do.
“So, in my opinion, if two or three judges are dedicated to take care of these offences, I think it will suffice,” she stressed.
She promised to discourage the idea of bringing interlocutory injunctions to Supreme Court, adding that it has to be with the leave of the Appeal Court.
Born in Kano State, Justice Mukthar is the first female Northerner to become a lawyer.
She is 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 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 1958–1972.
Jonathan had in a letter dated July 3, and read on the floor of the Senate by Mark, sought the Senators’ approval to make her Musdapher’s successor.
In the letter, Jonathan told the Senators that Mukhtar’s nomination was in conformity with Section 231 Sub-section (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The road to Mukhtar’s historic emergence began in April when Musdapher served the National Judicial Council (NJC) the mandatory three-month notice of retirement.
Mukthar was called to the Nigerian Bar on June 26, 1967.
By September 24, 1987, she became the first female to be sworn into the Court of Appeal.
When the Senate confirmed her appointment on May 10, 2005, she was also the first female Justice of the Supreme Court.
Born on November 20, 1944, she attended St. George’s Primary School, Zaria, St. Bartholomew’s School, Wusasa, Zaria, Rossholme School for Girls, East Brent, Somersets, England, Reading Technical College, Reading, Berkshire England, Gibson and Weldon College of Law and was called to the English Bar in Absentia in November, 1966.
She worked as a pupil state counsel, Ministry of Justice, Northern Nigeria in 1967; Office of the Legal Draftsman, Interim Common Services Agency, Magistrate Grade I, North Eastern State Government in 1971; Chief Registrar, Kano State Government Judiciary, 1973; Judge of the High Court of Kano State, 1977-1987; Justice of the Court of Appeal, 1987-1993; Justice of the Court of Appeal, 1993-2005; and Justice of the Supreme Court from June 2005 to date.
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