By Joe Nwankwo, Assistant Editor, Abuja
National Judicial Council (NJC), rising from an emergency meeting on Wednesday over ruled a November 5 decision of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mariam Aloma-Mukthar, by ordering immediate swearing-in of Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo as Justice of the Court of Appeal.
The swearing-in of Justice Jombo-Ofo had been shelved by the CJN on the day 11 other newly appointed Justices of the Court of Appeal took their oath of office, following petitions by some unnamed groups raising issues over her (Jombo-Ofo) state of origin.
Justice Jombo-Ofo hails from Anambra State, but she is married to an Abia State indigene, from where she was elevated to the Appeal Court bench.
The decision to stop her swearing-in, however, sparked off controversy, with Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chidi Odinkalu, describing the decision not to swear her in as being “flawed in law and due process.”
The Senate also in a resolution called for her immediate swearing-in.
Other groups and individuals toed similar line.
After Wednesday’s meeting, the NJC in a statement by Deputy Director, Information and Media, Soji Oye, stated as follows:
•That the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria had, without any consultation with the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria, who is also the Chairman of the National Judicial Council, proceeded to pass a resolution on November 7, 2012, to the following effect: –
•That the Senate urged the Chief Justice of Nigeria to swear in Honourable Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo as a Justice of the Court of Appeal; and
•That the Senate urged all government employing agencies to note in terms of employing a married woman shall lay claims to her state of origin and that of her husband in relation to the Federal Character Regulations.
•That the binding principles and formulae for the distribution of all cadres of posts (S.I.23 of 1997) provides in Part II, Section 2 as follows: –
“A married woman shall continue to lay claim to her state of origin for the purpose of implementation of the Federal Character formulae at the national level”.
•That the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council had by letter dated November 5, 2012, duly written to His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to inform His Excellency that the matter of Honourable Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo and the fact that she was not sworn in on November 5, 2012, would be tabled before the National Judicial Council.
•That the Federal Judicial Service Commission and the National Judicial Council, being Federal Executive Bodies established in pursuance of Section 153(1(i) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, are bound and obliged to observe and obey the provisions of the Constitutional Law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including the Federal Character Commission Act.
•That the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is also bound and obliged to observe and obey the stipulations of the Constitution and Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including the Federal Character Commission Act; without prejudice to the undisputed power of the National Assembly to amend and/or repeal the said Act.
•That the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the National Judicial Council must be commended for exercising sufficient caution, diligence and maturity in the matter, especially in the light of the documents, materials and other information available to her, and for taking the decision to put on hold the swearing-in of Honourable Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo as a Justice of the Court of Appeal, to await a meeting of the National Judicial Council to review the matter in all its ramifications.
•And after full and dispassionate deliberations on the matter, Council unanimously decided that Honourable Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo be sworn in as a Justice of the Court of Appeal.