Support for the erstwhile acting Chief Judge of Gombe State swelled with the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) rising against what they termed recurring discrimination against female law practitioners in some states in the country.
They called for rising above such in the selection of a substantive Chief Judge for the state.
Apart from FIDA, a community leader and human rights activist, Yakubu Sarma, the Magatakadan Bambam, told the National Judicial Council (NJC), that the preferred candidate of the Gombe State Judicial Service Commission, Justice Mua’zu A. Pindiga, does not only have a senior currently serving in the bench, but that he should first purge himself of allegations leveled against.
FIDA expressed worries that deep seated discrimination against the female gender is pronounced in the northern parts of the county, but advised the NJC not to succumb to such discriminatory antics.
In a petition it forwarded to the NJC signed by its Country Vice-President, Barr. Rhoda Prevail Tyoden, and National Secretary, Barr. Evelyn Membere-Asimiea, FIDA drew the attention of the NJC and in particular, its Chairman and Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Mohammed, to what they described as serious infractions by the Gombe State Judicial Service Commission where female Judge, Justice Beatrice Lazarus Iliya, is about to be denied elevation to the Chief Justice of the State, just because of her gender.
FIDA, a body of female lawyers which also promotes, protects and preserves the rights of women and children, pointed out that several female Judges who had been appointed as Acting Chief Judge had been denied the privilege of rising to the pinnacle of being named substantive Chief Judge of affected states, and urged the NJC to put a stop such denial of human and professional rights.
FIDA reminded the NJC “that Hon. Justice Beatrice Lazarus Iliya, who is the most senior judge in the Gombe State Judiciary, and was appointed acting Chief Judge, instead of confirming her as the substantive Chief Judge upon the expiration of her acting capacity, two other judges were nominated, and her junior appointed as acting Chief Judge of the state”.
The activists stressed that, “FIDA Nigeria is dismayed that the name of Hon. Justice Beatrice Iliya is not one of the nominees.
“We strongly feel that this action is based on gender discrimination, as Hon. Justice Beatrice Lazarus Iliya has proved to have professional competence through her performance as acting Chief Judge of Gombe”.
They insist that the conditions spelt out in the Revised Rule 3(6) of the Procedural Rules of NJC required that the most senior judge be given first consideration for the position among other requirements.
They mentioned the experience of “Justice Akon B. Ikpeme, of the Cross River State Judiciary who, as the most senior judge, was denied appointment to the pinnacle as Chief Judge until the NJC under the leadership of Justice Tanko Mohammed intervened and ordered her swearing-in as substantive Chief Judge” of the state, and requested the NJC to do so in Gombe State.
“We can go on with several instances of female judges who have been denied elevations and appointments especially as Chief Judge in their State, this is more predominant in the North.
“We believe these actions are in contravention of Article 2.1.2 of the National Judicial Policy.
“We, therefore, appeal that the policies and rules of this honorable committee guide the recommendation of persons to be appointed Judicial Officers and to call to order State Executive heads to desist from all discriminatory actions in the appointment of judicial officers especially the position of Chief Judge.
“We, call for your intervention in the appointment of the Chief Judge of Gombe State and stop the gender discriminatory act of the Governor and injustice against Hon. Justice Beatrice Iliya.
On his part, rights activist, Sarma, pleaded with the NJC and the CJN, Justice Tanko Mohammed, not to accept further credibility burden to be imposed on the judiciary by confirming someone he claims has questions to answer.
The Magatakadan Bambam in his petition claimed that Justice Pindiga, allegedly has some issues to sort out with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Department of State security (DSS).
In his petition dated 10th February, 2020, Sarma decried recommending Pindiga in place of Beatrice Lazarus Iliya by the Gombe State JSC to the NJC for appointment as the Chief Judge of the state.
When contacted, Secretary of the NJC, Barr. Ahmed Gambo Saleh, confirmed that the NJC was in receipt of petitions and submissions made by interested parties in the matter, adding that the Council will analyse them during their meeting slated for Monday and Tuesday.