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ON Monday 16 July, 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated Aloma Mariam Mukthar the 13th Chief Justice of Nigeria CJN). This followed her confirmation as the CJN by the Senate. Mukthar is the first female from Northern Nigeria to become a lawyer and the first woman to be appointed a justice of the Court of Appeal. She is also the first female justice of the Court of Appeal to make it to the Supreme Court, and Nigeria’s first female CJN.
BORN in Kano on November 20, 1944, she attended St. George’s Primary School, Zaria, St. Bartholomew’s School, Wusasa, Zaria, Rossholme School for Girls, East Brent, Somersets, England, Reading Technical College, Reading, Berkshire, England, Gibson and Weldon College of Law and was called to the English Bar in Absentia in November, 1966. She was called to the Nigerian Bar on June 26, 1967.
SHE worked as a pupil state counsel, Ministry of Justice, Northern Nigeria in 1967; Office of the Legal Draftsman, Interim Common Services Agency, Magistrate Grade I, North Eastern State Government in 1971; Chief Registrar, Kano State Government Judiciary, 1973; Judge of the High Court of Kano State, 1977-1987; Justice of the Court of Appeal, 1987-1993; presiding justice of the Court of Appeal, 1993-2005; By September 24, 1987, she became the first female to be sworn into the Court of Appeal. When the Senate confirmed her appointment on May 10, 2005, she was also the first female justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria
AS CJN, she has assumed office at a time when judicial reform has become a major challenge in the country. Two issues call for urgent attention regarding the judiciary. The first is the slow pace of the judicial process. Statistics from the Nigerian Prisons Service show that there were 53,100 inmates in prisons across the country as at June 20, 2012. Only 5,900 of these inmates were convicts while 47,200 were standing trial. About 50 per cent of the Awaiting Trial Prisoners had been remanded for between five and 17 years without their cases being concluded. The slow pace of the criminal justice system has been attributed to poor institutional incapacities. The facilities in the courts are poor. Many courtrooms are poorly lit, and are without electronic and computer facilities that can speed up the work process. There is also a human capacity deficit.
SECONDLY, there is a concern about the integrity of the judicial system.The former EFCC chair, Mrs Farida Waziri once lamented that the Judiciary was frustrating the Agency’s effort at fighting corruption. Similarly, Chief Afe Babalola lamented that election tribunals are turning Judges to billionaires overnight. Justice Musdapher, in a lecture noted with dismay “the declining intellectual depth and overall quality of the judgments of some judges as well as the frequency with which some judges churn out conflicting decisions in respect of the same set of facts.”
ALTHOUGH the process of judicial reform began with her predecessor, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, there is a lot to be done to rescue the judiciary from its current drift. Some administrative measures taken by Musdapher to reform the judiciary included the setting up of Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais-led 28 member judicial reform committee. From the report of the committee, 52 proposed constitutional amendments have been put forward to the National Assembly in respect of judicial reforms. Other aspects of the reports should now be carefully studied. She must ensure that other recommendations to reform the judicial process commence in earnest. While Musdapher had commenced the full computerisation of the Supreme Court operations for efficient and speedy processing of court documentations, this administrative reform processes must be pushed further until every court in Nigeria is fully computerised. This is a necessary and demonstrable means of improving administrative efficiency globally.
IMPORTANTLY too, she must promote the prioritisation of criminal matters bordering on official corruption in the courts. This is a major means of accelerating the hearing of such cases in order to ensure the speedy dispensation of justice. In the alternative, she may consider setting up special courts to handle corruption cases as advocated by some members of the judiciary. In this reform enterprise, she is in a race against time. She will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 years in 2014. She should therefore be focussed and work towards enhancing the reforms that are currently underway.Share
written by wedding cocktail dress, October 30, 2012