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Senate asks Chief Justice to swear in Jombo-Ofo

07 November 2012, 16:12

Abuja - The Senate on Wednesday called on the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Maryam Muktar, to swear in Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo as a judge of the Court of Appeal forthwith.

Jombo-Ofo was dropped from the list of judges sworn in by the CJN on Monday on the grounds that she was not from Abia even though she is married to a man from that state.

The Senate's resolution followed a motion by the Deputy Senate President, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu.

He said that Jombo-Ofo was nominated a judge of the Court of Appeal by the National Judicial Council (NJC) having gone through the due process.

Ekweremadu noted that  Muktar, who refused to administer the oath of office on Jombo-Ofo, was the same person who presided over the processes that cleared her.

He said it was surprising that Jombo-Ofo was denied the oath even though the 11 other judges were sworn in.

``The practical implication of the decision of the CJN is that Nigerian women have lost all they have struggled for over the years and Nigeria will be taken 100 years back.

``It also shows that once a woman is married outside her community, local government area or state, she cannot aspire to any position (appointive or elective) in her husband’s community.

``It is also very unlikely that she will secure such position in her place of origin since she has been married out.”

In his contribution, the Leader of the Senate, Sen. Victor Ndoma-Egba,(PDP-Cross River), noted that this was a bad development for women, particularly at a time when a woman was the CJN.

According to Ndoma-Egba, the implication of this is that rather than being on the part of progress, the country is retrogressing.

``Once upon a time in this nation, we had Kalu Anya as the Chief Judge of Borno State, a Yoruba man was Attorney- General of Borno and the then Secretary to the State Government was also a non-indigene.

``Today, three decades after, we are being told that an Igbo woman will not have opportunity in another part of Igbo land. I think we are retrogressing.’’

He noted that the implication of the action was that the judiciary was limiting itself to the choices available to it, saying that that would promote mediocrity.

He added that it would also have negative implications on the sanctity of marriage as a sacred institution.

``The other implication is on the sanctity of marriage. I believe that in every religion, marriage is sacred. The family is sacred.

``Now, if we say because of marriage, a woman cannot rise to the limits of her endowment, it means that for career minded women, we are putting them in a difficult situation of choosing between career and marriage.’’

Senate President David Mark described the issue as ``a fait accompli'' considering that Jombo-Ofo had already gone through the due process.

He said the swearing in was just a ceremony and if she had no problem during the entire process, there should be no problem at the point of being sworn in.

``There was nothing left again. Swearing in was just a ceremony and if the issues were not raised before but just at the point of swearing in, it is immaterial.’’

He noted that the CJN, by this act, was crying more than the bereaved since the Abia State Government was not complaining.

``I think the judiciary or the CJN is crying more than the bereaved because Abia State is not complaining. They submitted her name and the Governor was there.

``Why should anybody else say she is taking Abia State's slot because that is what it meant in effect, if she was not sworn in.’’

Mark said the Senate would do whatever it could to ensure that Jombo-Ofo was sworn in and to encourage women to continue to remain married and claim their husbands’ places of origin.

``This will also make us think twice about the issue of indigeneship and place of residence. If you are resident in a place, why can’t you take appointment there?

``But particularly on this issue, I think it was a mistake and it should be corrected. ’’

Briefing newsmen after the plenary session,  the spokesman for the Senate, Sen. Eyinnaya Abaribe (PDP-Abia), said the Senate took the decision because there was no legal impediment to her appointment.

``She passed through all the processes and it would be injurious to the women folk if this is not corrected.’’

Abaribe expressed the hope that the CJN would swear her in without further delay.



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