The Story Of Hon. Justice Beatrice Lazarus Iliya [Opinion]

Hon. Justice M. Bukar in one of his speeches wrote:

“…there I had the privilege of being taught by Professor Niki Tobi who later took up appointment on the Bench and retired as a Justice of Supreme Court. Professor Olusegun Yerokun is another able Nigerian lecturer who taught me. We were 16 in our class. The only female among us, Mrs. Beatrice Iliya, is now a Judge in Gombe State High Court”.

In the year 1957 something great happened, the Tangale nation witnessed the arrival of a gem. Of course, like every other childbirth, she was welcomed and showed love as much as she could get.

She attended Kabo Girls school Kano and then Government Girls Secondary school Maiduguri where she graduated as one of the tops in her class. She was offered admission in to the prestigious University of Maiduguri to study Civil Law. She was the only lady in a class of Sixteen students, but neither was she deterred nor intimidated by the “then” boys in her class, that only made her more determined to put in her best.

She was called to the bar in 1981 and immediately joined the services of the Bauchi State government in 1982 after her mandatory one-year NYSC in Cross River State.

She served and grew through the ranks until she became a Director Civil Litigations in the newly created Gombe State in the year 1997. She joined the bench as a Judge of the high court in 1998. Her years at the bench have been more than remarkable, as she always meets up with the quarterly reports of cases handed down. She was among the few judges selected and trained to handle any corruption related matter since the year 2001 till date. She is one judge that every lawyer gets his axe right before appearing in her court. She does not condone laziness or use of sentiment as against logical presentation of facts. (Could it be why they don’t want her to become the Chief Judge?)

She had presented several papers at different forums, attended several conferences, workshops and trainings both locally and beyond the shores of Nigeria.

She received COMMENDATIONS for about four (4) times from the NATIONAL JUDICIAL COUNCIL (NJC) at its 13th, 14th 16th and 25th meetings. Outstanding, yea?

HER APPOINTMENT SAGA

She was appointed acting Chief Judge of Gombe State after the retirement of Hon. Justice Hakila Heman on the 4th September, 2019. By 4th December, 2019 her three (3) months acting period elapsed. The executive governor had two (2) options:

  1. To invoke the provision of S 276 ss 4 which permits him to seek for extension of her acting period or
  2. Ignore the provision and embrace the most pleasant provision that says at the expiration of the three months, if not confirmed, the next most senior Judge be appointed in acting capacity.

The Executive Governor of Gombe state, having denied Hon. Mela Nunghe the position of the Attorney General under the pretext of fairness that should have favoured Justice B.L. Iliya, went ahead to to appoint Justice Pindiga in another acing capacity. One would have thought that after the first three months of Justice Pindiga, the next most senior in the person of Justice Awak be appointed but because he comes from the same hated Zone and a minority tribe, they quickly learnt how to renew the acting capacity.

REASONS FOR THAT CHOICE

It is now left for us, the concerned citizens to find suitable explanation for the governor’s action and inaction combined.

  1. Some quarters opined that his actions were informed by sentiment.
  2. Others on the other hand suggested and believed that it was due to pressure from the other side of the divide.
  3. Another minority opinion was of those who think of it from a gender biased position.
  4. Personally, I think it was due to ill advice by the members of his council who may have a particular interest to protect particularly the Attorney General and Hon. Commissioner of Justice of Gombe State, who admitted in a public document that he personally recommended to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) at a meeting chaired by himself (as a member of the executive arm of government) to remove the name of Hon. Justice Beatrice L. Iliya on the grounds that he found her wanting administratively. This is someone who rose in the civil service to the position of a Director and has been a Judge for over twenty (20) years. Can someone wake the Attorney General from his slumber please.

CONCLUSION

If truly the choice was not out of any borne grudge or sentiment of any form, then it is not late to do the needful. The appointment of a substantive Chief Judge may be the responsibility of the National Judicial Council, but people are forgetting the centrality of the Executive governor’s body language in the process.

If the APC is a doer of what it says, and if they truly want to continue to be with the people, it is not only recommended but Mandatory to take decisions that will not be repugnant to good conscience, equity and natural justice. For the collective good of the party and its leadership, I urge the executive governor of Gombe state to have a second look at the matter before him and treat it less egotistically.

The governor should be reminded that the second three months expires in two (2) days from now and that WE from GOMBE SOUTH are expecting him to correct the wrong first impression we already have concerning him.

Benjamin Dangoma Tanglang writes from Gombe. You can follow, reach him through @dangoma10son bentenson@gmail.com

 

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