The legislators say that not swearing Ms. Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo is injustice.
The Senate on Wednesday called on the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Maryam Muktar, to swear in Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo as a Judge of the Court of Appeal.
Ms. Jombo-Ofo was dropped from the list of judges sworn-in by Ms. Muktar on Monday, allegedly on the grounds that the former is not from Abia even though she is married to a man from the state.
The Senate’s resolution followed a motion by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.
The senator said Ms. Jombo-Ofo was nominated as a judge of the Court of Appeal by the National Judicial Council, NJC, having gone through the due process.
Mr. Ekweremadu said that Ms. Muktar, who refused to administer the oath of office on Ms. Jombo-Ofo, is the same person who presided over the processes that cleared her. He said it is surprising that Ms. Jombo-Ofo was denied the oath even though the 11 other judges were sworn in.
“The practical implication of the decision of the CJN is that Nigerian women have lost all they have struggled for over the years and Nigeria will be taken 100 years back.
“It also shows that once a woman is married outside her community, local government area or state, she cannot aspire to any position (appointive or elective) in her husband’s community.
“It is also very unlikely that she will secure such position in her place of origin since she has been married out.”
In his contribution, the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, said this is a bad development for women, particularly at a time a woman was the Chief Justice.
Mr. Ndoma-Egba said the implication of this is that rather than being on the part of progress, the country is retrogressing.
“Once upon a time in this nation, we had Kalu Anya as the Chief Judge of Borno State, a Yoruba man was Attorney- General of Borno and the then Secretary to the State Government was also a non-indigene.
“Today, three decades after, we are being told that an Igbo woman will not have opportunity in another part of Igbo land. I think we are retrogressing,” the senate leader said.
He noted that the implication of the action was that the judiciary was limiting itself to the choices available to it, saying that that would promote mediocrity.
He added that it would also have negative implications on the sanctity of marriage as a sacred institution.
“The other implication is on the sanctity of marriage. I believe that in every religion, marriage is sacred. The family is sacred.
“Now, if we say because of marriage, a woman cannot rise to the limits of her endowment, it means that for career minded women, we are putting them in a difficult situation of choosing between career and marriage,” Mr. Ndoma-Egba said.
The Senate President, David Mark, described the issue as “a fait accompli” considering that Ms. Jombo-Ofo went through the due process.
He said the swearing in was just a ceremony and if she had no problem during the entire process, there should be no problem at the point of being sworn in.
“There was nothing left again. Swearing in was just a ceremony and if the issues were not raised before but just at the point of swearing in, it is immaterial,” Mr. Mark said.
He noted that the CJN, by this act, was crying more than the bereaved since the Abia State Government was not complaining.
Mr. Mark said the Senate would do whatever it could to ensure that Ms. Jombo-Ofo was sworn in and to encourage women to continue to remain married and claim their husbands’ places of origin.
“This will also make us think twice about the issue of indigene ship and place of residence. If you are resident in a place, why can’t you take appointment there?
“But particularly on this issue, I think it was a mistake and it should be corrected,” the senate president said.
Briefing newsmen after the plenary session, the spokesman of the Senate, Eyinnaya Abaribe, said the Senate took the decision because there is no legal impediment to her appointment.
“She passed through all the processes and it would be injurious to the women folk if this is not corrected.”
Mr. Abaribe expressed the hope that the CJN would swear-in Ms. Jombo-Ofo without further delay.