By Habila Victor
The International Federation of Women Lawyers, (FIDA) Gombe branch has cautioned the Governor of Gombe State, Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya, to shun any advice or actions that promotes discrimination.
FIDA, advised the Governor to uphold the letter and the spirit of Constitution and his oath of office to do justice to all for the benefit and in the interest of the good people of Gombe State.
A statement jointly signed by the Chairperson, Elizabeth Jaloe-Okotie and the Secretary, Mwalin Naomi Abdu of FIDA, on Wednesday, noted that the appointment of Chief Judge in the State, has raised question of injustice against female justices in the state.
The said that it has been in the public space for over a year now and has been taken up by various civil society groups and non-governmental organisations like the Centre for Public Accountability who have decried the injustice perpetrated against female judges in recent times.
According to the statement; “It is no longer news that indeed on two different occasions, the Gombe State Judicial Service Commission has sent a list of nominees excluding the name of Justice Beatrice Iliya to the National Judicial Council for recommendation to the Governor on the appointment of the susbtantive Chief Judge. This clearly confirms our earlier agitations that the Governor intends to edge out Justice Beatrice Iliya from being appointed as the substantive Chief Judge in Gombe State, which at the time, were labeled baseless allegations but has gradually become our reality as at present”.
“Alas, what FIDA Gombe described then as our fears that the Governor was seeking to bypass Hon. Justice Beatrice Iliya for no justifiable basis to appoint Hon. Justice M.A Pindiga as the Chief Judge who is by far, her junior at the Bar and the Bench has now materialized as the acting capacity of Justice M. A Pindiga has been renewed for four times now”.
“Interestingly, the provision of S. 271(4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which, though was clearly applied out of context, was cited by the Governor as the basis for his refusal to extend the acting capacity of Justice Beatrice Iliya was not given the same interpretation when it came to renewing and extending the acting capacity of the current Acting Chief Judge”.
“It is our stand that S. 271(4) of the Constitution was meant to prevent the present situation occurring in the Gombe State where after one year following the retirement of the former Chief Judge, there is yet to be appointed a substantive Chief Judge for the State and not meant to perpetrate injustice against female judges”.
“We are also aware that some quarters have feebly advanced the argument that the consideration of seniority as a factor to be borne in mind in appointing substantive Heads of Court is not a constitutional requirement but a convention. It is our position that the mere fact that it is accepted as a convention means it has come to be accepted as good and fair practice over the years”.
“It is also our position and it stands to reason that if for any reason there should be a departure from this convention as we have seen in the cases where the most senior judge in the State happens to be a female, there should be some extenuating circumstances to warrant such departure”.
“Until present, in all cases where female judges have been on the receiving end of this unjust action, we have not been presented with any such circumstances or justifiable reason including the case of Justice Beatrice Iliya in Gombe State for the departure from this accepted convention”.
The Women Lawyers commended the National Judicial Council for not rubber-stamping the action sought to be taken by the Governor of Gombe State against Justice Beatrice Iliya who has served the Gombe State Judiciary selflessly for over 20 years as a Judge.
“We received the news that the National Judicial Council has rejected the nominations sent by the State Judicial Service Commission twice which excluded the name of Justice Beatrice Iliya from the list of nominees for no justifiable reason. We pray that they will not relent in upholding truth and justice until the right thing is done by the State to preserve our democracy and fundamental right against discrimination on basis of gender or religion”. They said.
The Women Lawyers also commended the effort of civil society groups and non-governmental organisations like the Centre for Public Accountability amongst others, who have taken up the fight on behalf of the female judges to condemn the injustice perpetrated against them.