Chief Richard Akinjide
Chief Richard Akinjide, in a special session of the Supreme Court to mark the beginning of the New Legal Year/conferment of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, eulogises Chief Justice of Nigeria Aloma Mukhtar
I thank warmly the Honourable Justice Aloma Marian Mukhtar, GCON, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, for her letter of August 1, 2012, inviting me to deliver an address at this Special Session on behalf of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria. My warm thanks also go to all the Honourable Justices of the Supreme Court, to all the Senior Advocates of Nigeria, the members of the Bar and all the invited guests. My special greetings to all the new Senior Advocates of the Bar.
My Lord, the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria. You have made history. The history of Nigeria can never be complete without your name as the first female Chief Justice of Nigeria. It is gratifying that in Nigeria today, many women have acquired education up to the very high levels in various professions. It is no longer the preserve of men. A lot of women in Nigeria have risen up the professional ladder and become captains in their own right to direct the affairs of multinational companies and regulatory authorities. But I am happy to confirm that the legal profession is such a noble profession where everyone is treated equally with no gender issues or discrimination in keeping with the Nigerian constitution.
My colleagues at the Inner Bar and those at the Outer Bar with special mention of those who today will join the rank of the Inner Bar to become Senior Advocates of Nigeria, I congratulate you all that our profession has, indeed, come of age. We have risen above inequality and gender issues through the appointment of the Hon. Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, GCON, as the first female Chief Justice of Nigeria. As I often say, the sky is not the limit for an achiever. It is not in many courts in the world do we have a lady as the Chief Justice of the country. I also wish again to congratulate all the other Justices of the Supreme Court for being the current members and part of this great history.
I had the privilege of visiting a number of the Highest Courts in some countries – England, United States of America, The Gambia, Ghana, India, Australia, to mention only a few. In the United States of America, there is one great custom in the court, which is of a great interest to me and one that I treasure. Each day when there is oral argument, just before the Justices go out on the Bench and before they confer, every Justice shakes the hand of every other Justice. To some people this may seem strange and unnecessary but you must remember that they are a very small group. They see and interact with one another, and they all know they will continue to do so for the rest of their professional lives. But it is important that they get along together so that they can go along together.
The American constitution, signed on September 17, 1787, was produced by 57 men. Although subject to the constitutional terms, women were “unacknowledged in its text, uninvited in its formulation and unsolicited for its ratification,” according to Deborah L Rhode in her book, Justice and Gender: Sex Discrimination and The Law (Harvard University Press 1989 at page 20).
In permitting each state in the United States to determine the qualification of voters for Congress, the United States constitution deliberately endorsed laws in virtually every state that prohibited women from voting. Nonetheless, in setting out the contours of American government in 1787, the framers of the constitution envisioned to rule for American women.
In the United Kingdom, women were not given the right to vote until 1918 to 1919.
I hereby pay homage to all the former Chief Justices of Nigeria who have all been very honourable and great. On behalf of my colleagues, I wish you, my lady, a fruitful tenure as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
To my colleagues who today formally join the Inner Bar, I extend to you the good wishes of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria. This is a great honour, but one which carries very great responsibilities. It is my prayer that you will all extol very high ethical values of our great profession as you join the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria.
God bless you all.
• Chief Richard Akinjide, CON, SAN, FCI Arb. (UK) FCE, was Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice in the Second Republic