CJN Bows, Agrees To Swear-In Jombo-Ofor

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ABUJA
—The National Judicial Council, NJC, after an emergency meeting in Abuja
yesterday, persuaded the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mariam Aloma
Muhktar, to rescind her decision and swear-in Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofor to the
Appeal Court Bench.
The
council, which has  former CJNs and ex-Presidents of the Court of Appeal
and Nigerian Bar Association as members, regretted that the issue “has
generated so much controversy in Nigeria, especially in the print and
electronic media.”

The
CJN had on November 5, declined to swear-in Justice Jombo-Ofor alongside 11
other newly appointed Justices of the Appeal Court, following a petition
challenging the state of origin declared by the judge, who was nominated under
a slot reserved for Abia State.

Investigations
by Vanguard had
revealed that the CJN decided to step-down her swearing-in following agitation
from some quarters that going by the prevailing judicial policy in the country;
she was not qualified to represent Abia State on the appellate court bench.
The
petitioners had contended that though Justice Jombo-Ofor is currently serving
under the Abia State judiciary, she lacked the requisite locus to take a slot
meant for the state since she was originally from Anambra State,
notwithstanding the fact that she is married to a man from Abia State.
The
embattled judge, who was asked to vacate the row reserved for the new justices
shortly before the swearing-in ceremony was conducted, was said to have
transferred her service from Anambra to Abia State after her marriage, and has
served in the Abia State judiciary for over 14 years.
She
is currently the Chief Judge of the State.
CJN not happy with Senate
Meanwhile,
a source who attended the meeting, yesterday, toldVanguard that
the CJN, while conceding to administer oath of office on Justice Jombo-Ofor,
however expressed her displeasure over the way the Senate dabbled into the
matter and issued a resolution without deeming it fit to hear her own side of
the story.
It
would be recalled that the Senate had after its deliberations on November 7,
ordered the CJN swear-in Justice Jombo-Ofor without further delay.
While
debating on a motion moved by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and
107 others, the President of the upper legislative chamber, David Mark,
described the decision of the CJN as unfortunate and endangering the sanctity
of marriage.
Disclosing
the decision of the CJN swear-in Justice Jumbo-Ofor, yesterday, the NJC, in a
statement signed by its Deputy Director of Information, Mr Soji Oye, maintained
that “the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria had, without any
consultation with the 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:-
“(a)
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
“(b)
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) provide 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 Dr. Goodluck
Ebele Jonathan, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to inform His
Excellency of the matter of Honourable Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofor 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 andor
repeal the said Act.
“That
the 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 Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofor 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 Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofor be sworn-in as a Justice of the Court of
Appeal.”
NJC silent on Salami
Meantime,
the council, yesterday, was silent on the prolonged suspension of the embattled
President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami, who has reportedly
been mandated to withdraw all the suits he filed in court with a view to
regaining his position for a period of three-months after which he will proceed
on compulsory retirement with full benefits.
Source: Vanguard

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