The chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), Dahiru Musdapher, who is billed to travel to Sussex for official function, has asked Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar to act on his behalf.
Musdapher has already written the National Judicial Council (NJC) to give the required three months’ notice of his impending retirement as a judicial officer on July 14, when he would have clocked the mandatory retirement age of 70.
It was learnt that; in the letter he sent to the NJC on April 11, 2012, Musdapher nominated a female justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Aloma, as his successor-in-waiting.
Aloma is the most senior justice of the Supreme Court, after Musdapher.
Source close to the apex court said the CJN, who is yet to make his terminal leave official, would proceed this weekend to the United States of America to rest with his family there.
However, following the speculations that he resigned after tendering a “quit notice” to the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) and the National Judicial Commission (NJC) on Wednesday, the CJN, on Thursday, issued a statement in Abuja debunking the rumour.
The statement signed by his media aide, Mr Mohammed Adamu, reads: “The Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Dahiru Musdapher, contrary to speculations, has not resigned his appointment.
“The CJN had, on April 11, 2012, written to the National Judicial Council, NJC, to give three months’ notice of his retirement from service as a judicial officer.
“This, as the CJN indicated, is so ‘that the necessary processes will be commenced early enough to enable the swearing of a new Chief Justice’ by July 16, 2012.
“It is public knowledge that by the provisions of Section 291(1) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, the CJN shall cease to be a judicial officer come July 14, 2012 when he would be 70 years.”
Aloma Mukhtar, a Kano-born first female lawyer from the north, was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1967. By September 24, 1987, she became the first female to be promoted to the Court of Appeal. And when the Senate confirmed her appointment to the apex court on May 10, 2005, she was as well the first female justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
So the thinking in many quarters is that feminists may soon celebrate the country’s any first female chief justice barring twist of fate.
But there has been the fear that President Goodluck Jonathan and the current CJN may stop the woman on the grounds that she is reportedly considered too independent-minded, tough and smart to manipulate.
To confirm the fear, the authorities allegedly influenced her appointment as chief justice of the Gambia but she quietly turned down the offer without giving reasons to avoid controversy and crisis of confidence reminiscent of the Katsina-Alu vs Salami saga.
While Justices Idris Legbo Kutigi, Aloysius Iyorger Kastina-Alu, Niki Tobi and Dahiru Musdapher dismissed the Buhari appeal and upheld the election of Yar’Adua and Jonathan in 2007, justices George Oguntade, Mariam Aloma Mukhtar and Walter Onnoghen who delivered dissenting judgments held that there were substantial non-compliances with the Electoral Act 2006 which vitiated the election.
Tobi, who read the lead judgment, said: “In my view, the most important complaint in an election petition is the disenfranchisement of eligible voters who reported within the statutory time to cast their votes but could not for reasons of violation of the Electoral Act.”
Oguntade, who delivered the minority judgment, differed with Tobi and his co-travellers, and insisted alongside his co-dissenters that failure by the electoral commission to use serialized ballot papers bound in a booklet meant that the election was not conducted substantially in tandem with the Electoral Act.