By Morenike Taire
Being ahead of the glass ceiling is not unfamiliar territory for new Nigerian Chief Justice. Mariam Aloma Mukhtar before her swearing in as the head of the Nigerian judiciary, had been the first woman from Northern Nigeria to become a lawyer. As she grew in her career, Mukhtar, became the first woman to be appointed a justice of the Court of Appeal and, later, the first female justice of the Court of Appeal to make it to the Supreme Court.
By her appointment, president Jonathan has once again made good his promise to have women in positions in the country’s leadership during his administration.
In addition, the national honour of the Grand Commander of the Oeder of the Niger (GCON) was conferred on her by the president.
Born 68 years ago, Justice Muktar had her primary education at St. George’s School, Zaria and also at St. Bartholomews’s school, Wusasa, also in Zaria from 1950 and 1957. She also attended Rossholme School for Girls in East Brent, Somerset, England for her GCE O’ Levels in 1962 and went for further education at the Technical College, Berkshire England.
She graduated from Gibson and Welder College in law in 1966 and was subsequently called to the English Bar in absentia. She was called to the Nigerian Bar on June 26, 1967. With achievements too numerous to mention, there are unpredentedly high expectations from the lady of the law.
What people say about her.
Since her swearing in, Muktar’s appointment has been lauded as one of president Jonathan’s ‘right’ moves. Expectations are high.
President Jonathan, in a speech at the swearing in ceremony, urged Justice Muktar to mull and act on the establishment of special courts for terrorism, corruption cases.
Carol Ajie, Constitutional and Human Rights Lawyer and Fellow, Leadership andAdvocacy for Women in Africa, Washington D.C., said “Justice Mariam Mukhtar, has worked twice as hard as others as a judge through the hierarchy of courts before she was elevated to the Supreme Court Bench in June 2005, a measure that wholly prepares her for the challenging task ahead.
Of impeccable integrity,she earned momentous respect from members of the Bench and Bar in a way that is unprecedented. Accomplished, she comes with iconic experience and legendary judicial finesse. Adored by many who look upon her as our super model and mentor; firm yet fair with a reputation for intellectual precision and zero tolerance for corruption, fit as the 13th CJN and first female to ascend this zenith, at a time the judiciary seeks the cleansing of the Augean stable, to win public respect.
Joseph Oteh, Director, Access to Justice urged “Madam Chief Justice” to please end these unfortunate frivolities that put litigants and their representatives to utter disappointment and distress. The NJC (National Judicial Council), says he, has a performance evaluation programme, which started out with some promise, but is now largely redundant. The NJC needs to restore a performance evaluation system that gives a more authentic portrait of judges’ efficiency levels, punishes under-performers and rewards excellence.