Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, has charged Judges to brace up ahead of the avalanche of electoral disputes that might flood the courts as a fall out of the forthcoming general elections.
The CJN gave the charge, on Tuesday, in Abuja, while administering the oath of office on Justice Uwani Abba Aji who became the seventh female Justice of the Supreme Court.
Besides, Justice Onnoghen admonished judicial officers to be courageous and firm in the discharge of their statutory obligations.
According to the CJN, “We as judicial officers will continue to take very hard decisions in the determination of matters before us otherwise, there will be no project called democracy.”
While describing the elevation of Justice Abba Aji to the apex court as a victory to the judiciary, the CJN admonished her to abide by her oath of office so as to preserve the integrity of the judiciary.
“Be courageous in the discharge of your duties and always remember your oath of office as doing otherwise will attract the full wrath of the National Judicial Council.
“You journeyed through tick and thing and your elevation to the bench of the Supreme Court is a reward for your hard work.
“You are expected to do more as a lot needs to be done, especially pre- election matters.”
A former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukthar, made history in 2005, when she was sworn in as the first female justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Justice Abba Aji has become the seventh female Justice of the Supreme Court, trailing the likes of former Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloma Mukthar, Justice Olufunlola Adekeye, Justices Mary Peter Odili, Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, Kudirat Keke–Ekun and Amina Adamu Augie.
Her nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari was recently confirmed by the Senate as Justice of the Supreme Court, after serving 14 years on the bench of the Court of Appeal.
She was confirmed by the Senate came after it considered the report of the committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and legal matters on her nomination.
Chairman of the committee, David Umaru, said the nominee has been screened and satisfied all requirements.
Her elevation to the apex court was mired in controversy following bribery allegations that were made against her.
Specifically, she was under corruption investigation by security agencies for allegedly accepting a bribe from a senior lawyer who is currently facing trial in court.
She was one of the eight judicial officers, who were directed by the NJC to excuse themselves from duties, effective from November 2, 2016 on the request of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) pending the outcome of their investigation by the DSS, on corruption allegation.
She and others were however directed to resume duties on June 7, 2017 on the grounds that no charges were brought against them by the AGF at the conclusion of their investigation.
A Civic Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), had through its Chairman, Mr. Lanre Suraji, urged President Muhammadu Buhari not to forward her name to the Senate for confirmation as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, on the basis of the bribery allegations.
Suraju, who is also a member of the National Judicial Council (NJC), Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Monitoring Committee set up last year by the CJN, was said to have threatened to challenge Abba-Aji’s appointment in court should President Buhari assent to her elevation to the Supreme Court.
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However, NJC has since reacted to the call asserting that there are no allegations of corruption against her.
In a statement by its Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, explained that contrary to CSNAC’s claim, Justice Abba-Aji has no pending corruption case to disqualify her from being appointed to the apex court’s bench.
The Council had at its 87th meeting chaired by the CJN on October 3 and 4, recommended Justice Abba-Aji, currently the Presiding Justice, Kaduna division of the Court of Appeal, to the President for appointment as a Justice of the Supreme Court.
The Yobe State jurist was elevated to the bench of the Court of Appeal on September 22, 2004 along with Justices Mary Peter Odili and Kudirat Keke–Ekun.