The group said the Federal Character law violates women’s rights
A civil society group, Women Empowerment and Legal Aid, has sued the Federal Government over the refusal of the Chief Justice of the Federation, Mariam Aloma-Mukhtar, to swear in Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo as a Court of Appeal Judge.
The Chief Justice had refused to swear in Mrs. Jombo-Ofo due to controversy raised about her state of origin. The High Court judge who is originally from Anambra State was denied the promotion because a petitioner had objected to her receiving Abia State’s (the state of her husband and where she had worked in her entire career) slot in the Appellate Court.
The group is asking a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to abrogate the provision of Section 2 of Part II of the Federal Character Commission Act Cap F7 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
According to WELA, the law that says, “a married woman shall continue to lay claim to her state of Origin for the purpose of implementation of the Federal Character Formulae at the National level” is unconstitutional as it contravenes sections 42 of the 1999 Constitution.
Section 42 of the constitution reads in part: “A Citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not by reason only that he is such a person; be subject either expressly by, or in the practical application of any law in force in Nigeria or executive or administrative action of the government to disabilities or restriction to which citizen of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, place of origin, sex, religious or political opinions are not made subject.”
WELA argues that the provision of the Federal Character Act “violates the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution as it discriminates against women by virtue of their status as being married and in as much as a married man is not affected by the law, to that extent it is discriminatory, illegal and unconstitutional.”
Furthermore, the organisation also claims, the Federal Character Act violates the Article 2 & 3 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Act (CAP A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 that states: “The state shall ensure elimination of every discrimination against women and also ensure the protection of the rights of the women and the child as stipulated in international declarations and conventions.”
The organisation is therefore asking the court to declare the provision of the Federal Character Commission Act “unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect whatsoever and thereby expunge same provision on grounds of its unconstitutionality.