President Jonathan nominates first female Chief Justice

by Isi Esene

The Nigerian judiciary might get a female substantive head faster than imagined. President Goodluck Jonathan has formerly nominated Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar as the New Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), which would make her first female CJN.

Justice Mukhtar, who holds double record as the first female to be promoted to the Court of Appeal Bench, as well as, the first female jurist in the annals of the country, was born in Kano. She is the first female lawyer from the northern part of the country having being called to the Nigerian Bar in 1967, a year after she was adopted into the English Bar.

In September 24, 1987, she became the first female to be appointed a judge in the appellate court, and was sworn-in as the first female to ascend the Supreme Court Bench eighteen years later.

Although she was the first woman on the bench, she quickly ascended the judicial ladder to become the most senior ranking justice of the Supreme Court besides the incumbent CJN, Justice Musdapher, who in-line with section 291(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, will bow out of the judiciary on July 15 at age 70, the mandatory retirement age for judicial officers within his cadre.

According to the constitution, the onus is on the Federal Judicial Service Commission, FJSC, to send name of the candidate to the National Judicial Commission, NJC, which in turn, nominates to the Presidency. Upon the president’s approval, the appointee’s name is forwarded to the Senate for screening and confirmation.

Justice Aloma’s nomination has however allayed the fear nursed in certain quarters that President Jonathan and the current CJN, Musdapher, might not favour her selection because she is considered to be highly-principled and too independent-minded.

There are presently 14 justices at the apex court Bench, out of which only three are women.

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