Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) has called on the National Judicial Council (NJC), to resist any attempt by the Gombe State government to prevent Justice Beatrice Iliya from becoming the substantive Chief Judge of the state on account of her sex and religion.
In a petition to the NJC, the body of female lawyers lamented what it termed recurring discriminatory actions against female law practitioners in parts of the country and vowed to resist the application of such if it applied in the selection of a substantive Chief Judge for Gombe State.
Justice Beatrice Iliya has personally petitioned the National Judicial Council (NJC) over alleged plot by Gombe State government to scuttle her elevation as Chief Judge of the state.
The petition was dated April 21, 2020 and titled, ‘Re-Presentation by Hon. Justice Beatrice L. Iliya in Respect of the Appointment of Chief Judge of Gombe State High Court’.
In the petition, the embattled female Judge chronicled the preceding events and actions of the state government aimed at stopping her from becoming the next Chief Judge of the state.
Her petition opened a floodgate of similar petitions from some interest groups and community leaders on the subject matter.
For instance, a community leader and human rights activist, Yakubu Sarma, Magatakadan Bambam, has informed the National Judicial Council (NJC), that the preferred candidate of the Gombe State Judicial Service Commission, Justice Mua’zu A. Pindiga, is by far a junior judicial officers to Justice Iliya.
FIDA while expressing worry over what it described as deep seated discrimination against female lawyers especially in the northern part of the county, advised the NJC not succumb to such anachronistic and discriminatory antics.
In a petition forwarded to the NJC and signed by its Country Vice-President,
Barr. Rhoda Prevail Tyoden and National Secretary, Barr. Evelyn Membere-Asimiea, FIDA drew the attention of the NJC and in particular, its Chairman and Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Mohammed, to what they described as serious infractions by the Gombe State Judicial Service Commission where a female Judge, Justice Beatrice Lazarus Iliya, is about to be denied elevation to the Chief Justice of the State, ostensibly because of her gender.
FIDA, a body of female lawyers which also promote, protect and preserve the rights of women and children, pointed out that several female Judges who had been appointed as Acting Chief Judges had been denied the privilege of rising to the pinnacle of being named the substantive Chief Judge of affected states and urged the NJC to put a stop such discriminatory and frustrating trend.
FIDA reminded the NJC “that
Hon. Justice Beatrice Lazarus Iliya who is the most senior judge in the Gombe
State Judiciary, and was appointed acting Chief Judge, instead of confirming
her as the substantive Chief Judge upon the expiration of her acting capacity, two other judges have been nominated and a far junior appointed as acting Chief
Judge of the State”.
The activists stressed that, “FIDA Nigeria is dismayed that the name of Hon. Justice Beatrice Iliya is not one of the nominees. We strongly feel that this action is based on gender
discrimination as Hon. Justice Beatrice Lazarus Iliya has proved to have
professional competence through her performance as acting Chief Judge of Gombe”.
They insist that the conditions spelt out in Revised Rule 3(6) of the Procedural Rules of NJC required the consideration of the most senior judge for the position of a Chief Judge among other requirements, should be followed to its letters.
They reminded of “the case of Hon. Justice Akon B. Ikpeme of the Cross River State Judiciary who, as the most senior judge was denied the appointment to the pinnacle as Chief Judge until NJC under the leadership of Justice Tanko Mohammed intervened and ordered
her swearing-in as substantive Chief Judge” of the state, and requested the NJC to intervene in the Gombe State debacle.
“We can go on with several instances of female judges who have been denied elevations and appointments especially as Chief Judge in their State, this is more predominant in the North. We believe these actions are in contravention of Article 2.1.2 of the National Judicial Policy.
“We, therefore, appeal that the policies and rules of this honorable 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.
“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 is tarnishing the reputation of the judiciary.
“We, therefore, call on your intervention in the case of the appointment of the Chief Judge of Gombe State and stop the gender discriminatory act of the Governor and injustice against Hon. Justice Beatrice Iliya of the Gombe State Judiciary.
“We are confident that this honourable committee will ensure that equity and justice prevail”.
On his part, Sarma pleaded with the NJC and the CJN, Justice Tanko Mohammed, not to accept that further credibility burden be imposed on the judiciary by confirming Justice Pindiga.
In his petition dated 10th February, 2020 to the NJC, Sarma decried the
recommendation of Justice Pindiga in place of Justice Beatrice Lazarus Iliya by the Gombe State JSC to the NJC for appointment as the Chief Judge of the state.
Meanwhile, Secretary of the NJC, Barr. Ahmed Gambo Saleh, confirmed that the NJC is in receipt of petitions and submissions made by interested parties in the matter, adding that the Council will analyse them during their meeting slated for Monday and Tuesday.