By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — Indications emerged, yesterday, that despite the ultimatum handed to her by the Senate, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mariam Aloma Murktar, may have resolved to stick to her earlier decision not to administer oath of office on one of the newly appointed Justices for the Court of Appeal.
It would be recalled that Justice Murktar, who is the first female to attain the revered position of a CJN, had on November 5, declined to swear-in Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo alongside 11 others, despite the fact that her appointment was duly approved by President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Judicial Council, NJC.
Reacting to the directive from the Senate, asking the CJN to reverse her decision and swear-in the embattled Justice immediately, an aide to the CJN who craved anonymity, yesterday, adduced reasons why such order from the upper legislative chambers could not stand.
Why she can’t be sworn in
According to him, sequel to the petition, the CJN who is equally the head of the NJC, discovered several inconsistencies in the documents tendered by the embattled Justice, and subsequently summoned her with a view to getting her own side of the story.
He said on several occasions when the CJN confronted the learned Justice, who had been in the Abia State judiciary for over 14 years, she was unable to enter a convincing defence against allegations raised by her adversaries, a development the source said prompted the CJN to defer her swearing-in till when all the discrepancies are sorted out.
He said: “The CJN has nothing personal against Justice Jombo-Ofo. It is unfortunate that people never thought it wise to seek the truth of what happened but rather went ahead to rely on media reports to castigate and vilify the Chief Justice of Nigeria without getting the true facts of the matter.”
Urging Nigerians to always strive to hear both sides of a story before jumping into conclusion, the source who is equally a senior staff at the NJC, said: “If the CJN were to be vindictive, the woman may have to face disciplinary measures as this bothers on the integrity of a judicial officer, but like a mother she wants to ensure that justice is done to all parties concerned.”
It would be recalled that sequel to the controversy, the Senate, on Wednesday, ordered the CJN to swear in Justice Jombo-Ofo without further delay.
The Senate, while debating on a motion moved by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and 107 others, the President of the upper legislative chamber, David Mark, described the decision of the CJN as unfortunate and posing a great implication on the sanctity of marriage.
He said: “The implication of this is that if there is anything good in the husband’s place and we say that the wife should not take it, I think is just unfortunate but more importantly, the sanctity of marriage would be destroyed by this act if we allow it and I believe that we ought to encourage professional women to maintain their professions and keep their marriages at the same time. This is going to provide for them to choose between their professions and their marriages and that will not encourage marriage life in this country.”
According to Senator Mark, the appointment of Justice Jombo-Ofo followed due process. He maintained that if there were reasons against the appointment, they ought to have been addressed before the swearing-in, which was a mere ceremony.
“The whole thing to me is fait accomplish because they have gone through the entire process. 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, either to appease those who have petitioned or because she was not from her husband’s place of origin, it was immaterial,” he remarked.
“She ought to have been sworn in. 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 slot because that is what it meant in effect, if she was not sworn-in.”
Mark, however, assured that the Chambers would do all within its power to ensure that the mistake is corrected.
“We should do whatever we can to ensure that the woman is sworn in and to encourage women to continue to remain married and continue to claim their husbands’ place 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,” he said.