The Gombe State Governor, Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, has sworn-in a new Acting Chief Judge, Justice Mu’azu Abdulkadir Pindiga, replacing Justice Beatrice Iliya, who has served for three months, from September 3.
The Governor said the swearing-in followed the expiration of the constitutional three-month acting period of the Justice Iliya.
He thanked the former Acting Chief Judge for her meritorious and selfless service, while congratulating Justice Pindiga, who he said was the next most senior judge in the High Court of Justice in Gombe State.
However, the International Federation of Women Lawyers, FIDA, has protested the move by the governor, which it says goes against the constitutional provisions of law, because Justice Iliya remains the most senior judge in Gombe State.
The Chairperson of FIDA, Mrs. Elizabeth Jallo Okotie, who spoke with journalists, said according to the constitution, an acting Chief Judge can only be removed on the grounds of incompetence alone.
Mrs. Okitie said the Gombe Chapter of FIDA believed that the swearing in of a new acting Chief Judge was a discrimination against the woman, because she was still competent and the most senior at the moment.
She quoted Section 271 of the 1999 Constitution subsection 4.
“It provides that the governor can only swear in a CJ, if the seat is vacant of the incumbent CJ is unable to perform,” Mr. Okotie said.
She said FIDA is protesting because there was no single allegation against Justice Iliya, saying “Rule 26 Sub Rule Two, of our Rule of Professional Ethics provides that there is seniority at the Bar. Even one hour is very important. So, if the Number One CJ is there, there is no reason why somebody can go against the rule and bring somebody from the back and impose on top of the sitting CJ. That is why we are here this afternoon,” she said.
The Chairperson of the Gombe State Chapter of FIDA said the protest was staged against a flagrant disobedience to the law and the rules of their professional ethics.
In the meantime, the Gombe State Chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association says the swearing-in of the incumbent Chief Judge in Gombe State is in order and constitutional.
The Vice Chairman of the association in Gombe State, Mr. Abdullahi Abubakar, in an interview with journalists in Gombe said the Governor did not contravene any law in the process.
“The procedure for the appointment CJ is, as provided by the constitution, whenever the office is vacant, the governor, through the Judicial Service Commission of the state, they will now write to the National Judicial Commission, that an office of the CJ is vacant, we are submitting one, two or three persons for your recommendation to appointed as the CJ of the state, now, after the recommendation by the NJC for the persons to be appointed. It is not automatic; the governor has to take it to the house of assembly for them to approve, to have the 2/3rd of the majority that they are in agreement with this person to be appointed as the substantive CJ, before the confirmation of the appointment y the government. So, these procedures are provided by the constitution and they most have to be followed.” Mr. Abubakar said.