by Faruk Ibrahim
In November 2012, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Maryam Aloma Mukhtar, declined to administer oath of office on one of the newly appointed justices of the Appeal Court. The decision of the CJN was sequel to a petition challenging the state of origin declared by the judge, who was nominated under a slot reserved for Abia State (her husband’s state).
The decision of the CJN to step-down the swearing-in of Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo, stemmed from agitations from some quarters that according to judicial policy, she is not qualified to represent Abia State.
The petition contended that although Justice Jombo-Ofo was 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 and had transferred her service from Anambra to Abia State after her marriage.
This week, the House of Representatives sought to amend the Federal Character Commission Act to enable Nigerian women to lay claim to their state of origin or that of their husband through marriage for the purposes of appointment and political representation
Sponsor of the bill, Honourable Bassey Ewa, noted that marriage should not be an obstacle to the overall growth and development of the Nigerian woman but a catalyst. She also said that the country must step in line with global trends of encouraging women and empowerment.
The bill however did not receive the backing of the representatives as it suffered a setback and was stood down by the Speaker, owing to the constitutional order raised by the Minority Whip of the House, Honourable Samson Osagie.
Honourable Osagie, in his constitutional order, maintained that the amendment being sought contravened Section 42 of 1999 constitution (as amended) which touched on non discrimination of any Nigerian based on sex and religion, pointing out that to go on with it would amount to constitutional breach.
The Speaker deferred further debates on the proposed amendment and asked the House committees on Rules and Business, Justice and Judiciary to consider the implications of relevant sections of section 42 of the constitution as it affected the bill and report back to the House.
Honourables Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Andrew Uchedu, Nnena Ekeje Elendu amongst others while supporting the bill were of the view
that women should be allowed to choose which of the two options opened to them they would want to be considered from and stick to such choice.
Supporters of the bill added that it is unconstitutional as well as discriminatory to deprive the Nigerian woman her rights in her acquired state as a citizen of Nigeria, also by virtue of section 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.