By BARTHOLOMEW MADUKWE
LAGOS — A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Mr Lanre Ogunlesi, yesterday, warned against discrimination in the judiciary, noting that it was wrong for the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mariam Aloma Murktar, to decline swearing-in Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo for the reason that she is not from Abia State.
Ogunlesi said that such judicial discrimination was currently in Lagos State judiciary system, whereby only an indigene of the state can get judicial appointment or be elevated as a judge in the state.
He explained that there was an outcry against such discrimination in Lagos State, adding: “If somebody has worked his or her whole live in Lagos State and paid tax in the same state, why do you now say that such person cannot be elevated as a judge in Lagos State.
“And you know that the CJN is a lady, she is head of the National Judicial Council, NJC, that actually approved the appointment of Justice Jumbo-Ofo, so why has she now declined to swear her in.”
Warning that the issue should not be viewed from the perspective of the judiciary alone because it would also affect the civil service, Ogunlesi said such development would not encourage marriage institution or inter marriage.
He noted that matter would affect the judiciary, saying “even in America, you can change your state and adopt another state. The decision of the CJN is wrong. Now, nobody would want to marry from another state if she sees that there is no future for her there.”
Ogunlesi explained there was no law stopping Justice Jumbo-Ofo from serving in the state of her husband, stressing that even the Constitution encourages it because such law applies mainly to men and does not work in abstract situation, as it must be applied to the facts on ground.
“For a lady who has served in the state of their husband, the law cannot apply. Nobody is complaining, even the governor of the state, who recommended the judge is not complaining, so why is the CJN, who should promote the course of women in Nigeria, be unwilling to swear her in?” he wondered.
He noted that technically, Justice Jumbo-Ofo was no more a justice of the High Court, since having received her letter of appointment as a Justice of the Court of Appeal, adding “she ought to be sworn in as a judge of the Court of Appeal because once you are announced as being elevated, the status-quo no longer obtains. She cannot go back to the High Court.”