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For Justice Iliya

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Editorial

 

The government of Gombe State should treat fairly Justice Beatrice Lazarus Iliya, who has served the state as a judge diligently for years. Justice Iliya has petitioned the National Judicial Council (NJC), over unfair discrimination in choosing a substantive chief judge, because of her gender. Such discrimination is prohibited by section 42 of the 1999 constitution (as amended). So, if the Gombe State government is too timid to treat a lady fairly, because of alleged cultural impunity, we urge the NJC to defend Justice Iliya’s constitutional right not to be discriminated against, because of her gender or any other reason that is unknown to the constitution.

In her letter to the NJC, dated July 17, 2020, Justice Iliya complained that the Gombe State Judicial Service Commission overlooked her in their recommendation of who would be appointed the state chief judge, despite being the most senior judge in the state, and having served in acting capacity for three months. The commission, she noted, overlooked her because of her gender and submitted names of two male judges, who are junior to her, to the NJC. While Justice Iliya was called to the bar in 1981, the other two contenders, namely, Justices Joseph Ahmed Awak and Muazu Pindiga were called to bar in 1983 and 1988, respectively.

Justice Iliya complained that the state attorney general and commissioner for justice, Zubairu Mohammed Umar, cannot preside over the petition allegedly written against her by one grain merchant that she “moved into the office of the chief judge when I(she) was in acting capacity.” It is interesting that the state attorney general has disclaimed the pendency of any substantive petition against her, but rather laid claim to the lame excuse that the state’s preferred candidate has better administrative skills.

Her petition was copied to the chairman of the NJC interview committee, the secretary of the NJC and the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association. Of note, the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) has petitioned the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Chairman of the NJC, Justice Tanko Mohammed, against what they termed discriminatory practice against the female gender in some states in the northern part of our country. They noted the action of Gombe State government was discriminatory and should not be allowed.

In their words: “We, therefore, appeal that the policies and rules of this committee guide the recommendation of persons to be appointed judicial officers, and to call to order state executive heads to desist from all discriminatory actions in the appointment of judicial officers, especially the position of chief judge.” They went further: “This brazen injustice that is gaining grounds in most states against female judges, who have worked hard and diligently to deserve an elevation, is not in the interest of justice, and it’s tarnishing the reputation of the judiciary.”

We join FIDA to condemn this patriarchal anomaly. Indeed, the female gender suffers a double whammy, because, apart from discriminating against her based on gender, she is also discriminated against based on state of origin, after marriage. We saw that in Cross River and Rivers states, not long ago. By a narrow definition of state of origin, a woman is denied the highest accolade, after giving her services to a state, sometimes both in her state of birth and state of marriage.

We condemn these discriminatory practices against women, because it is an abnegation of our laws. The Gombe State government should shake off the alleged anachronistic and discriminatory antics, in a country where women had served as the chief justice of the country and President of the Court of Appeal. Governor Mohammed Inuwa and his attorney general, Muhammed Umar, should avoid plunging the state judiciary into avoidable crisis. he government of Gombe State should treat fairly Justice Beatrice Lazarus Iliya, who has served the state as a judge diligently for years. Justice Iliya has petitioned the National Judicial Council (NJC), over unfair discrimination in choosing a substantive chief judge, because of her gender. Such discrimination is prohibited by section 42 of the 1999 constitution (as amended). So, if the Gombe State government is too timid to treat a lady fairly, because of alleged cultural impunity, we urge the NJC to defend Justice Iliya’s constitutional right not to be discriminated against, because of her gender or any other reason that is unknown to the constitution.

In her letter to the NJC, dated July 17, 2020, Justice Iliya complained that the Gombe State Judicial Service Commission overlooked her in their recommendation of who would be appointed the state chief judge, despite being the most senior judge in the state, and having served in acting capacity for three months. The commission, she noted, overlooked her because of her gender and submitted names of two male judges, who are junior to her, to the NJC. While Justice Iliya was called to the bar in 1981, the other two contenders, namely, Justices Joseph Ahmed Awak and Muazu Pindiga were called to bar in 1983 and 1988, respectively.

Justice Iliya complained that the state attorney general and commissioner for justice, Zubairu Mohammed Umar, cannot preside over the petition allegedly written against her by one grain merchant that she “moved into the office of the chief judge when I(she) was in acting capacity.” It is interesting that the state attorney general has disclaimed the pendency of any substantive petition against her, but rather laid claim to the lame excuse that the state’s preferred candidate has better administrative skills.

Her petition was copied to the chairman of the NJC interview committee, the secretary of the NJC and the Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association. Of note, the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) has petitioned the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the Chairman of the NJC, Justice Tanko Mohammed, against what they termed discriminatory practice against the female gender in some states in the northern part of our country. They noted the action of Gombe State government was discriminatory and should not be allowed.

In their words: “We, therefore, appeal that the policies and rules of this committee guide the recommendation of persons to be appointed judicial officers, and to call to order state executive heads to desist from all discriminatory actions in the appointment of judicial officers, especially the position of chief judge.” They went further: “This brazen injustice that is gaining grounds in most states against female judges, who have worked hard and diligently to deserve an elevation, is not in the interest of justice, and it’s tarnishing the reputation of the judiciary.”

We join FIDA to condemn this patriarchal anomaly. Indeed, the female gender suffers a double whammy, because, apart from discriminating against her based on gender, she is also discriminated against based on state of origin, after marriage. We saw that in Cross River and Rivers states, not long ago. By a narrow definition of state of origin, a woman is denied the highest accolade, after giving her services to a state, sometimes both in her state of birth and state of marriage.

We condemn these discriminatory practices against women, because it is an abnegation of our laws. The Gombe State government should shake off the alleged anachronistic and discriminatory antics, in a country where women had served as the chief justice of the country and President of the Court of Appeal. Governor Mohammed Inuwa and his attorney general, Muhammed Umar, should avoid plunging the state judiciary into avoidable crisis.

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