Nigeria’s First Female Chief Justice: A profile

Justice Alooma Muktar.- 2

Oluokun Ayorinde/Abuja

With the nomination of Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar as the new Chief Justice of Nigeria to the Senate by President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday, Nigeria’s apex court is set to have its first female head.

Justice Mukhtar, 68 will replace Justice Dahiru Musdapher who retires as the CJN on 15 of July. Justice Mukhtar has been a trailblazer for women on the Bench in many respects. When she was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2005, she was the first female jurist to be appointed to the highest court in Nigeria.

Justice Muktar had also earlier made history as the first woman to be appointed into Appeal Court, Nigeria’s second highest court. Ironically, it was gathered Justice Muktar was nominated by the Kano State government to the appellate court in 1987 to pave way for a male appointee.

The incoming CJN who was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1967, a year after she was called to the English Bar is also the first female lawyer in the Northern part of the country.

Legal practitioners and colleagues described her as independent minded.

Justice Mukhtar was one of the justices who gave a dissenting judgment that is widely acclaimed in legal circles and the academia in the Yar’Adua/Buhari election result dispute in 2007. The incoming CJN alongside Justices George Oguntade, (now retired) and Walter Onnoghen, held that there was substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2006 which vitiated the election of the late President.

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It was gathered that an offer was made to her some months ago to proceed on secondment outside the country and assume office as the Chief Justice of Gambia as a way of stopping her from becoming the CJN. She however declined the offer.

Justice Mukhtar began her legal career as a pupil counsel in the Ministry of Justice of Northern Nigeria in 1967. She was later appointed Magistrate Grade I, North Eastern Government (1969 – 1973), thus scoring another first as the first female Magistrate in the Northern region.

She made another history with her appointment as the Chief Registrar, Kano State Government Judiciary (1973 – 1977) and Judge, High Court of Kano State in 1977 and Justice, Court of Appeal in 1987. She is at present the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court.

Justice Muktar has been a life Bencher since 1993 and a life member of the Federation of Women Lawyers. She was also the Vice President of the National Association of Women Judges of Nigeria. In 1989, Muktar was honoured by the Federation of Women Lawyers and in 1991; she was decorated with a Gold Merit Award by the Kano State Government.

In 2003 she was again honoured by the International Association of Women Lawyers, and in 2004, the Fellowship of the Nigerian Law School was conferred on her.

Justice Muktar had her primary education at the St. George’s School, Zaria and also at St. Bartholomews’s school, Wusasa, also in Zaria from 1950 and 1957. She furthered her education at Rossholme School for Girls in East Brent, Somerset, England for her GCE O’ Levels in 1962 and went for further education at the Technical College, Berkshire England.

She graduated from Gibson and Welder college in law in 1966 and was subsequently called to the English Bar in absentia. She was called to the Bar on June 26, 1967.

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